The Latest: Macedonia FM calls for dialogue to solve crisis

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Posted: Apr 28, 2017 10:44 AM
The Latest: Macedonia FM calls for dialogue to solve crisis

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — The Latest on the political crisis in Macedonia (all times local):

4:40 p.m.

Macedonia's foreign minister is calling for demonstrators who ran riot in the country's parliament to be brought to justice, and is advocating dialogue to overcome the current crisis.

Nikola Poposki added, however, that Thursday's vote in Macedonia's parliament for a new speaker was not in line with the country's laws.

"I don't think we need any more unilateral moves," he said Friday. "We have to come back to respect of legal procedures, laws, because this is the only way we can preserve peace and stability."

Poposki argued that Macedonia would benefit in terms of stability from closer ties with the European Union, which it is seeking to eventually join.

He spoke to journalists on the sidelines of a European foreign ministers' meeting in Valetta, Malta.

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3:25 p.m.

The NATO alliance has warned Macedonia, a candidate country, not to let similar violence happen again after protesters stormed parliament and assaulted opposition lawmakers.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that authorities have a "solemn responsibility to uphold the rule of law, and ensure the security of Parliament and its members at all times."

He added that "acts of violence like those we saw yesterday (Thursday) must not be allowed to happen again."

Stoltenberg called "on all political actors to show calm, restraint, and respect for the democratic process."

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2:35 p.m.

Hungary's foreign minister says that foreign intrusion is to blame for the political crisis in Macedonia.

Peter Szijjarto says that far-away foreign countries, which he didn't name, decided the country's voting timetable. He also accused unnamed groups tied to billionaire George Soros of financing "anti-government actions."

Szijjarto, attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Malta, said that "Macedonia's example clearly shows the dangers of external intervention in the life of a country."

Hungary's position on Macedonia seems to follow the Russian view, as Moscow says the European Union and the U.S. are to blame for the turmoil.

Hungary says that Soros is working against Hungarian interests because of his support for migration, fervently opposed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Soros earlier dismissed similar accusations against him.

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2:25 p.m.

Macedonia's interior minister has offered his resignation a day after protesters stormed the country's parliament.

Protesters attacked legislators over disagreements in the election of a new parliamentary speaker. More than 100 people were injured in the violence.

The resignation of Agim Nuhin, interior minister in the caretaker government, has to be approved by the head of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration party.

Macedonia has been without a government since elections in December were won by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, but without enough votes to hold a majority in parliament. Coalition talks with an ethnic Albanian party have failed over the latter's demand that Albanian be named an official second language in the country.

The ethnic Albanian minority makes up about a quarter of Macedonia's population.

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1:20 p.m.

The Russian Foreign Ministry is blaming the European Union and the United States for the turmoil in Macedonia.

In a statement issued Friday, the ministry said the West's "gross interference" in the internal affairs of Macedonia was the main reason for the political crisis and described it as the "unceremonious manipulation of the will of the citizens with the aim of removing the legitimate government from power."

Demonstrators in Macedonia's capital, Skopje, late on Thursday stormed the legislature and attacked lawmakers to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-old deadlock in efforts to form a new government.

The ministry said the West's quick welcoming of the new parliament speaker showed that the step had been coordinated in advance.

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1:05 p.m.

A party official says Macedonia's opposition leader will not attend emergency talks aimed at defusing tension after opposition lawmakers were assaulted when demonstrators invaded parliament.

The official in the opposition Social Democrat party did not provide further details on why Zoran Zaev will not go to the talks called by the president and initially scheduled for later Friday.

The party official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

—By Konstantin Testorides

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11:15 a.m.

Turkey has expressed "deep concern" over violence in Macedonia's parliament and the political crisis in the country, urging the creation of a new government within democratic principles.

The Turkish presidency said in a written statement Friday that it hoped "differences in opinion" in Macedonia would soon be solved through dialogue and tolerance.

"Macedonia holds key significance to establish lasting peace in the Balkans," the statement read, adding that Turkey would continue to support the country.

Demonstrators in Macedonia's capital, Skopje, late on Thursday stormed the legislature and attacked lawmakers to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-old deadlock in efforts to form a new government.

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10:30 a.m.

The head of Macedonia's dominant conservative party has condemned overnight violence against opposition lawmakers in parliament, but says opposition leaders provoked the attack.

Nikola Gruevski is accusing the Social Democrats of consciously breaching the country's law and constitution by electing a new parliament speaker — an ethnic Albanian politician.

"I want to condemn the violence and those individuals who have attacked and injured lawmakers," Gruevski said at his party headquarters early Friday.

Gruevski said the Social Democrats also bear responsibility for the violence, as their "greed for power at any cost" was its "direct cause."

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10:20 a.m.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has called emergency security consultations over political turmoil and unrest in its southern Balkan neighbor, Macedonia.

The meeting of Serbia's bureau for coordination of security services will be held later on Friday. Belgrade leaders have warned that any instability in Macedonia reflects on the entire Balkans.

Demonstrators in Macedonia's capital, Skopje, late on Thursday stormed the legislature and attacked lawmakers to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-old deadlock in efforts to form a new government.

Vucic says incidents in Macedonia "present a problem for all of us who live here and it is better to stop all the problems and secure peace and stability for our children."

Local media say Vucic has discussed the situation with some regional leaders.

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9:45 a.m.

Macedonia's president has called an emergency meeting of political leaders, hours after demonstrators — mostly supporters of the country's dominant conservative party — invaded parliament and assaulted opposition lawmakers.

Police said 77 people, including opposition Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev, the head of a small ethnic Albanian opposition party and 22 police, were injured in the overnight riot.

It was unclear whether opposition party leaders would heed President Gjorge Ivanov's call to attend the meeting to defuse the tension.

Late Thursday, demonstrators stormed the legislature and attacked lawmakers to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-old deadlock in efforts to form a new government.

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9:10 a.m.

The European Union has condemned the violence that swept Macedonia's parliament and said that the cornerstones of democracy should be respected.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said Friday that "violence is unacceptable, even more so when it happens in the house of democracy."

On Thursday, demonstrators stormed the legislature and attacked lawmakers to protest the election of a new speaker despite a months-old deadlock in efforts to form a new government.

Clashes over several hours injured 77 people, including 22 police officers and several lawmakers, authorities said.

Mogherini, attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Malta, called the incident a "serious crisis that can be dangerous."