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Grillot, Suzette R, Wolf-Christian Paes, Hans Risser and Shelly O Stoneman. 2004 ‘Weapons Collections: Past and Future.’ A Fragile Peace: Guns and Security in Post-Conflict Macedonia; Section 3.7, pp. 27-28. Geneva: Bonn International Center for Conversion / Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. 1 January

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Weapons Collections: Past and Future

As part of the overall peace plan, NATO agreed to oversee a voluntary weapons collection from the NLA [National Liberation Army] members, once a political agreement acceptable to all parties had been brokered. The Ohrid Framework Agreement paved the way for NATO to begin Operation Essential Harvest.

Just how many weapons and combatants the NLA had became a sensitive political question after NATO agreed to preside over a voluntary weapons collection in September 2001. Rather than aiming at full disarmament of the NLA, Operation Essential Harvest and later demobilization efforts were primarily designed to signal the group's good faith in the Ohrid Framework Agreement, thus building confidence in the larger peace process. The purpose of the month-long mission was to collect arms and ammunition voluntarily turned over by ethnic Albanian insurgents.

The Macedonian VMRO-DPMNE government insisted on a collection of at least 7,000 weapons based on an estimated NLA strength of 7,000 combatants. NATO officials maintained that the rebel force consisted of roughly 2,000 combatants and therefore set a goal of 3,000 weapons as a significant political gesture from the NLA. NATO officials claimed that with fewer weapons in rebel hands, Macedonia would be more stable and that the disarmament was a gesture to the Macedonian Parliament to begin reforms that would benefit the Albanian minority. As the Macedonian public became more interested in what quantity of NLA weapons NATO forces should be expected to collect, politicians began raising the number of weapons to be collected if the operation was to be deemed a success. On 26 August 2001 the VMRO-DPMNE prime minister insisted that NATO troops collect no less than 30,000 weapons. His spokesperson, Antonio Milososki, later declared that NATO needed to collect 60,000 weapons to be a success. At one point the VMRO-DPMNE interior minister called for NATO to collect 85,000 weapons and more than 5 million pieces of ammunition. It is clear from these statements that the numbers to be collected took on an ever-increasing political meaning. The calls from members of the VMRODPMNE party can be seen as evidence of their increasingly radical stance and a clear attempt to cast doubt on the peace process in general.

On 26 August 2001, Operation Essential Harvest began with the arrival of 400 British, Czech, and French soldiers. These soldiers would prepare for the full activation of the larger Task Force Harvest. The mission of the task forces would be the collection and disposal of arms and ammunition turned in by the insurgents. From 26 August to 26 September, NATO troops collected and disposed of 3,875 weapons and 397,625 mines, explosives, and ammunition that were handed in by the NLA…

ID: Q3765

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