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Politics

Albanian Leader Says Turkey Meddled in Maritime Deal With Greece

ATHENS – Turkey tried to get in between a maritime deal signed by Albania and Greece in 2009 which agreed on a delimitation of sea zones and the Continental Shelf, Albania’s then-prime minister and president Sali Berisha said.

He’s now a main opposition leader ahead of 2023 local elections and had been accused of corruption by the United States which barred him and his family from entering but has been speaking out now.

In an exclusive interview with EURACTIV he spoke of the deal brokered by his Democratic Party that gave 225 square kilometers (86.8 square miles) of Albanian territorial waters to Greece.

He didn’t explain why he waited 13 years to reveal what he said happened nor was it said if an attempt was made to get a reaction from the Turkish side over what he claimed happened.

Greece’s then Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis paid an official visit to Tirana in April 2009, accompanied by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who signed the delimitation agreement with her Albanian counterpart Lulzim Basha, in the presence of  Berisha.

It was the most important agreement signed between the two countries since the Friendship Pact was signed in 1996 and led to Albania applying for European Union membership with the backing of Greece, but it hasn’t been realized yet, Albania still dogged by charges of corruption and holding down media freedom.

“Our partner, Greece, in 30 years was very helpful for Albania. Supported Albania’s road to NATO and Europe, serious investment in the country,” Berisha also told the news site.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has tried to overturn the deal by suing – which blocked its implementation – Berisha saying that, “Turkey was never interested in that agreement and made a strong intervention.” He didn’t explain what that was.

After Rama’s move, Albania’s Constitutional Court unanimously ruled the agreement invalid, citing procedural and substantive violations contrary to the Constitution and the Law of the Sea, the report noted.

“The Constitutional Court rejected a very good agreement. After the Constitutional Court objected, I told the (Greek) government that I am obliged to respect the decision. But I said we should go to The Hague. At the beginning, they were hesitant, but later they accepted as they saw I was very transparent,” he said.

The annulment of the Agreement and rising tensions over ethnic minorities and land in both countries has caused tension between the countries and haven’t been resolved as of yet.

In 2020, Greece and Albania said the issue would be referred to the International Court of Justice to “join the dots based on the court’s expertise and international maritime law,” according to Rama then.

Berisha said that, “Turkey is no doubt a friend, a partner, but with a doctrine of neo-Ottomanism that I will not accept,” he said referring to the some 600 years of Turkish Ottoman rule in the region.

 

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