Mr Richard Wade (left) at the British War Cemetery in Skopje, Macedonia
by Sasha Uzunov
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has confirmed one of its diplomats, regarded by sources as a heavy hitter, was in Macedonia but would not elaborate on the nature of his fact-finding mission.
DFAT spokesperson issued the following statement to TEAM UZUNOV blog:
"Australian Government officials regularly travel to North Macedonia for bilateral meetings on a range of issues."
Mr Richard Wade, who is based in the Australian Embassy in Belgrade which covers Macedonia and Montenegro as well, was recently in Macedonia and western diplomatic sources have told TEAM UZUNOV blog that Mr Wade was conducting in-depth research and questioning local officials on a wide variety of subjects.
DFAT would not comment if Mr Wade discussed topics, such as the controversial Prespa Agreement signed with Greece which led to Macedonia changing its name, WWII Albanian Nazi collaborator statues built in Macedonia, Bulgarian inspired Holocaust denial and convicted Australian-Albanian terrorist Sevdet Besim, with Macedonian officials.
TEAM UZUNOV blog received a tip about Mr Wade's visit and contacted the Australian Embassy in Belgrade on 7 June 2019 and received a response about six weeks later.
TEAM UZUNOV email:
COUNTER-TERRORISM INTELLIGENCE EXCHANGE - Australia and Macedonia?
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) together with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) run counter-terrorism operations in Australia. ASIO doesn't take part in any physical raids or arrests but supplies the relevant intelligence usually obtained by telephone and/or internet intercepts or informers. Australia swaps information with other countries on intelligence and terrorism matters, including Macedonia.
The AFP was contacted to ask if it and the Macedonian security authorities had swapped information about Sevdet Besim, a convicted Australian-Albanian jihadist terrorist who planned an attack in Melbourne in 2015.
An AFP spokesperson issued this statement:
"Unfortunately, we cannot answer that question for you. In no circumstances does the AFP comment on the exchange of intelligence or on intelligence requests from overseas (or even domestic) police. The reason is that talking about such exchanges has the potential to compromise activities being undertaken by policing partners. If they want to confirm they have asked us for information, that’s fine. But we won’t confirm or deny it."
The Macedonian Interior Ministry (MVR) which runs the country's Police and Intelligence services was contacted for a response but no response has been forthcoming.
Australian-born Mr Besim is of ethnic Albanian origin from Macedonia.