Komiti football fans, a group supportive of the Vardar team, said that it will accept the invitation from President Stevo Pendarovski to attend a meeting with rival Albanian football groups, but only if the President uses the name Republic of Macedonia during the event.

Pendarovski said that he will invite the rival groups for a series of meetings with former fighters in the 2001 civil war, to discuss the dangers of the growing wave of nationalism. Tensions are high after the Albanian nationalist Shverceri group rampaged through the Macedonian National Theater, chanting that Macedonians are a made up nation and have no history or culture.

Other Macedonian groups joined the Komiti in their position. The Komiti also demand that, before a meeting takes place, thej Shverceri denounce the brutal 2018 murder of young Komiti fan Nikola Sazdovski, which the Shverceri have since celebrated in their public appearances.

We support the initiative in principle. We asked the office of the President to send us an official letter of intent and to explain his initiative, but we never got one. In our phone conversation with them, we made clear our conditions for attending. We demand that all the official documents surrounding the initiative use the name Republic of Macedonia. Our position on the name issue has been made clear many times. Also, knowing the positions of the Shverceri and the Balisti who deny the Macedonian nation, language, culture, their history of anti-Macedonian action, we want them to sign a declaration before any meeting occurs in which they will denounce the murder of Nikola Sazdovski – Sazdo, commit to resist the use of the name “North”, declare loyalty to the Republic of Macedonia, recognize the territorial integrity of the Republic of Macedonia…, the Komiti said in their response to Pendarovski’s initiative.

The Albanian nationalist groups still haven’t declared whether they will participate in the planned meetings. Another young Vardar fan was stabbed earlier this month in a mixed part of Skopje, in an attack also attributed to Albanian nationalist groups.

Macedonia plays Kosovo in March, for a possible place in the European 2020 football championship, and this match is also expected to lead to increased tensions.