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Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos has cancelled a visit to Tirana after Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha called a Greek town 'Albanian'.
|Prime Minister Sali Berisha|
The Greek foreign ministry explained the cancellation by saying that the Albanian leader's words “do not contribute towards the creation of a climate of friendship, trust and good neighbourly relations between the two countries”.
Avramopoulos had been expected to join several others heads of state and foreign dignitaries at celebrations marking the 100th year of Albania’s declaration of independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha on Tuesday recalled that the declaration of independence in 1912 had applied to all majority Albanian areas in the region, stretching from Preveza in Greece to Presevo in Serbia, and from the Macedonian capital of Skopje to the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica.
The comments were also inscribed on a parchment that will be displayed at a museum in the city of Vlora, the town where Albanian independence was proclaimed.
In a statement on Wednesday the Prime Minister's spokesperson, Erla Mehilli, described Berisha’s words about Preveza as referring to historical events.
“They refer to the historical context of 100 years ago and do not express any territorial claims to our neighbours to the south, north or east,” Mehilli said.
The existence of a large Albanian diaspora outside Albania's borders dates back to the circumstances of the Balkan wars of 1912/13, when Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria overran most of the Ottoman Empire in Europe, dividing it up among themselves.
Albania proclaimed independence at the same time, but its state borders were drawn conservatively, reflecting the Albanians' relative weakness at the time. A large percentage of Albanians in the Balkans were left outside its frontiers. Those placed inside [former] Yugoslavia now live in three separate states, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro.
Albania's relations with Greece have been aditionally complicated by a longstanding Greek claim to the south of Albania, which Greek nationalists call Northern Epirus.
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