Kotzias visit to Albania greeted with protest

Kotzias visit to Albania greeted with protest

A visit by Greece's foreign minister to Albania was met with a protest Monday by the Cham community, which was expelled from northwestern Greece during World War II after Athens claimed they had collaborated with the country's German occupiers.

A few hundred supporters of the Party for Justice, Integration and Unity skirmished with police as they tried to block the entrance of the Foreign Ministry in the capital, Tirana, as Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias was to arrive.

Kotzias delayed his arrival briefly and his Albanian host, Ditmir Bushati, came out to meet the PDIU's leader Shpetim Idrizi to clear the road before the minister's arrival.

Four issues have turned bilateral ties sour between the neighbors: the Chams' claims on their confiscated property; the technical state of war still in place since then-fascist Italy attacked Greece through Albania in 1940; an unresolved maritime dispute and Greek claims of discrimination against the ethnic Greek minority in Albania.

Hundreds of thousands of Albanians poured to Greece after the communist regime fell in 1990.

Speaking at a PDIU congress on Saturday, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said Albania did not believe Greece's claim that the Cham community were Nazi collaborators" and said Athens should scrap the war law against Albania.

"A war law with a country we have a friendship treaty?" Rama asked. "If it is useless, what does it cost to scrap it?!"

On Sunday, the Greek Foreign Ministry said "Albania must understand that its European course depends on faithful implementation" of European Union standards such as respecting court decisions, "particularly when these concern war crimes," and protecting the rights of the ethnic Greek minority. [AP]

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