Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos canceled a trip to Albania after that country’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha referred to a “greater Albania” including areas that belong to Greece, ahead of celebrations to mark the centenary of the Balkan country’s independence.
Avramopoulos had been due to fly to Tirana on Nov. 28 to join the events. “Such statements do not contribute to the creation of an atmosphere of friendship, trust and good neighborliness,” said the Foreign Ministry in Athens.
Berisha’s office later issued a statement clarifying that the prime minister had been making a historical reference and in no way meant to suggest that Albania had any territorial claims on Greece.
In an inflammatory speech in Aulona, Albania, while referring to Albania’s Independence Day, Berisha said that the silhouetted double-headed eagle, the eternal symbol of the Albanian nation that was raised on Nov. 28 in Vlora to fly above Albanian lands, is also a monument to Albania. “Let us wish Albania’s youth and the nation to follow the eagle flying high with more dignity, free and united,” he said.
Later, after the Greek reaction, Berisha’s spokeswoman, Erla Mehilli, said the prime minister “in no way expressed any territorial claim towards our neighbors in the south, north or east.”