GJIROKASTER, Albania – The bones of 573 Greek soldiers that fell in the mountains of Albania during the 1940-1941 Greco-Italian war, at the start of WWII, will finally be laid to rest on Friday and receive a proper burial after 70 years, during a funeral ceremony to be held at a new Greek military cemetery in Kelcyra, Albania at noon.
Their burial meets a long-standing Greek demand for the exhumation, identification and burial of fallen Greek soldiers that fell in the fighting on Albania’s mountains. It was the result of two long rounds of gruelling negotiations initiated by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias with the Albanian side, as part of an effort to resolved outstanding issues between the two countries, one held in November 2017 on Crete and the second in January 2018 in Korce.
The work of recovering and exhuming the soldiers’ remains, which had started in Dragot, Albania in January, was completed and also puts to rest an issue that had long plagued Greek-Albanian relations. The 573 Greek fallen join another 100 Greek soldiers that have already received burial rites in July 13.
The search for the remains of more Greek soldiers that fell in the battlefields of Albania will continue, the foreign ministry said, in accordance with a decision reached by a joint expert committee responsible for implementing the agreement between Greece and Albania.
Under the agreement, Albania has agreed to build military cemeteries for the Greek soldiers that died on its soil and to seek, exhume, identify and bury their remains.