Albania officials blame Greeks for Permet row

One day after the Greek government lodged a demarche over the expulsion of Orthodox clergy and removal of religious items from the Church of the Virgin Mary in Permet, a town in southern Albania, the government in Tirana on Tuesday held the Greek Orthodox community responsible for the tension.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday Albania’s outgoing Prime Minister Sali Berisha condemned Greece’s official complaint as “unacceptable and unreasonable interference in Albania’s internal affairs.”

It was the clergymen and churchgoers that “broke the police cordon, removed the protective barriers and entered the building,” Albania’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday which also called for “restraint.”

Responding to allegations that unknown assailants threw stones at the Greek Consulate in Gjirokaster, the ministry said that police investigators only found one stone, “which could have been kicked up by the wheel of a passing vehicle.”

Meanwhile, reports Tuesday said that Permet municipal officials and private security staff retook control of the church, which local authorities claim has been legally declared a cultural center. Officials reportedly cleared the building of religious items and blocked the entrance.