Greece has urged Albania to abstain from actions that fuel tension in bilateral relations after the Foreign Ministry in Tirana labeled 52 Greek nationals personae non gratae and banned them from entering the Balkan country.
The 52 were among hundreds who attended the funeral on Thursday of an ethnic Greek who was fatally shot in a gun battle with Albanian police last month.
“At this sensitive juncture we expect Albania to refrain from statements and actions that strain our relations,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that it expected Albanian authorities to clarify the reasons for their decision.
“We remain dedicated to building bonds of trust; however we expect the same of our neighbors,” it said.
Earlier Friday, Albania’s Foreign Ministry alleged that the 52, who were not identified by name, participated in “extremist events” against Albania and made public statements challenging the country’s constitution, national security and public order.
“No one should mistake our prudence as weakness and no foreign national can violate the law, traditions and hospitality of this country without consequences,” the ministry said.
The funeral of 35-year-old Konstantinos Katsifas was attended by hundreds of Greek nationals – many of them holding Greek flags – who traveled on buses to the village of Bularat in southern Albania from Greece.
Also Friday, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a Facebook post that Albania is “not at war with funeral caskets or provocateurs at funerals.”
“Those who came to provoke put their own flag to shame,” he said.
New Democracy’s shadow foreign minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos denounced the remarks by Rama as “unacceptable and provocative,” and accused the Greek government of “encouraging” the Albanian leader with its “silence.”
In a related development, 12 Greek nationals who had been detained by Albanian authorities after the funeral on Thursday on suspicion of instigating “racist violence” were released early Friday morning.