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29 Leo-Pard Macedonian security forces were fighting the NLA near Tetovo, thirty miles from Skopje, as I arrived in the Macedonian capital on Sunday, July 1, 2001. I did not know how long this assignment would last, but I knew from past Balkan exploits that the situation was delicate and would require dedicated, hands-on attention. Leaving Macedonia, even for a short period , might not be an option. The White House and the State Department gave me minimum guidance before I departed for Skopje and only rarely provided instructions throughout the negotiations. The White House was interested mainly in reaching an acceptable peace settlement and transferring responsibility to the Europeans as soon as possible. I sent in an occasional formal reporting cable during the negotiations, but I usually kept the State Department informed through secure daily one-page emails and phone calls. Whether based on confidence in me or a lack of interest, Washington’s remote attitude was welcome and gave me wide latitude to do the job. My arrival in Skopje signaled the direct engagement of the United States in the peace effort and was of high interest to the local and international media. The Europeans understood that American engagement was necessary to give the Albanians confidence in the negotiations as they moved forward. Only five members of the international Contact Group were active in the Macedonia situation. Russia was on the sideline for this one. The “Quint,” as the group called itself, consisting of representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy, were frustrated by the situation in Macedonia. They wanted Leotard and me to be aggressive and to move quickly to an agreement. That attitude suited me fine. Laurel Miller, my primary American associate throughout the negotiations , was already in Skopje. We had worked together in Washington throughout the war in Kosovo and its aftermath. She knew the region, the 278 Macedonia: The Ohrid Agreement issues, and the culture of the State Department. I trusted her completely. Her European colleagues on Leotard’s EU team soon came to respect her, and they all bonded as a unified team of “experts.” Over the next several days, the US team would expand to include essential expertise. Sam Laeuchli, a State Department political officer who spoke French, joined us, as did a public-affairs officer, Jan Edmonson, who helped with the media. We also had a representative from DOD and a security team for the delegation. Our group operated out of the US embassy in Skopje, and the EU team rented offices and a residence for Leotard in the city. On arrival in Skopje, I dropped my bags at the Alexander Palace Hotel and went to work. Leotard joined me at the US ambassador’s residence for our introductory discussion. The meeting that afternoon proved to be a crucial strategy session that would define our general approach to the negotiations. I had heard of Leotard but knew little about him. I had no insight into his instructions from Paris or Brussels and no idea of what to expect from him. As a former minister of defense and minister of culture in France, he had held high positions and had more political experience than I did, although he lacked my background on the Balkans. My previous experience with French officials had been positive, although I knew they could be difficult for American representatives, seemingly as a matter of principle. After leading the T&E Program in Bosnia, which included all the difficulties I had with European governments, and after my role in the war in Kosovo, I could only imagine what Leotard had heard about me. Language was a concern. My French-language skills consisted of a one-year college course years ago. Leotard grasped more English than I understood French, but we needed translation to ensure complete understanding . He made a serious effort to improve his English that summer, while I shamefully made little effort in French. Ultimately, the language difference was no real obstacle to our effort. Both of us knew that unity of effort would be critical to success, and we agreed to work closely and openly as a joint negotiating team. Once the initial courtesy calls on Macedonian officials were completed, we agreed to conduct our meetings jointly with the parties. We understood that neither of us could interact with Ali Ahmeti or any member of the NLA as part of our negotiations. We started with a blank sheet of paper. Neither of us...


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MARC Record
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