Friday, January 22, 2021

Albania’s Rama cautiously balancing between Erdogan and Mitsotakis

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Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on January 7, and made a swiftly organized “private” cease, extensively seen as a type of balancing act, in Athens January 8.   Rama, and Albania usually, is perched between two intensely counter-spinning vortices triggered by an extended interval of intense Greek-Turkish animosity over most of 2020.
Albania’s ongoing heat cultural and historic relationship with Turkey is sharply juxtaposed towards Tirana’s and Rama’s European ambitions, all of which lead inevitably via Athens.
Strategic partnership with Turkey
In Ankara, on January 7, Rama and Erdogan signed a so-called “Strategic Partnership Agreement” in addition to co-operation agreements on well being, training, building, infrastructure, and tradition. They additionally signed an settlement on the institution of a High Council for Strategic Cooperation between Albania and Turkey.  While the time period “strategic partnership” had been one thing invented in Washington largely to use a type of beauty window dressing to America’s sturdy bilateral relationships with vital interlocutors lately, Athens has lengthy been involved the Turkish-Albanian preparations would offer justification for even deeper Turkish navy involvement on Greece’s northern border, despite the fact that all events are already NATO allies.
Historical irony: Greece-Albania maritime border query
It is assumed that Rama and Erdogan mentioned intimately the plans Albania and Greece had introduced final October to request help from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to assist resolve the problem of the joint maritime border; Turkey is seen to be against this step.  The irony on this state of affairs flows from the truth that after a surge in airspace violations by Turkey within the Aegean final summer time, the Greek authorities determined it was time to start exercising its proper beneath accepted worldwide regulation to increase Greek territorial waters from six to 12 nautical miles unilaterally.
Greece was legally entitled to do that alongside all of its borders, however to keep away from scary Turkey, which has warned within the strongest phrases towards such steps up to now, Greece’s declaration was confined to maritime boundaries of the nation’s western half, going through Italy and Albania. The laws required to increase Greece’s territorial waters was tabled on January 12 and must be accepted by Parliament in about one week, putting the topic on the high of the agenda between Athens and Tirana, and apparently vital for Ankara as properly.
In addition, Greece will quickly move to increase territorial waters south of Crete, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias introduced in parliament on January 12.
Readers will recall the joint Greek-Albanian announcement to request The Hague’s help resulted from FM Dendias’ go to to Tirana on October 20, the place he met with Albanian PM Rama. The groundwork for that announcement had been laid when Rama visited Athens in September as a speaker at a convention organized by The Economist and met for an prolonged interval with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
A “private visit” to Athens
Rama’s January Eight go to to Athens was categorized by either side as a “private visit” with minimal media protection.  It was seen as extra delicate than traditional in view of the controversial maritime demarcation challenge within the run-up to Albanian elections scheduled for April 25, in addition to Rama’s conferences in Turkey the day earlier than. Sharp Greek media observers didn’t miss the truth that the presidential Airbus Rama used for his stops in Turkey and Greece is leased to Albania from the Turkish authorities which previously used it to help Erdogan’s travel.
The opposition Democratic Party has accused Rama’s ruling Socialist Party of opacity and secret negotiations in requesting assist from The Hague on the maritime border query, which has lengthy been a political scorching potato in Albania.
Rama additionally raised with the Greeks his issues in regards to the challenge of EU Covid-19 vaccine purchases and their delayed distribution within the Western Balkan international locations; Albania so far has obtained lower than 1000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.  It will not be identified how a lot time was devoted in Athens to the topic of EU Enlargement as there was no touch upon this vital matter.
While in Greece, Rama reportedly made a suggestion to host a high-level Greek-Turkish assembly in Tirana, though it’s unclear if this could be on the stage of overseas minister or prime minister; little else has been mentioned on this matter.
The Greek-Albanian discussions occurred towards the backdrop of political turmoil in Washington and preparations for the resumption of the bilateral “exploratory talks” between Greece and Turkey which later had been introduced for January 25 in Istanbul, after a hiatus of 4 years.

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