Greece’s foreign minister has cancelled a trip to Albania after the neighbouring country’s prime minister suggested a north-western Greek town was “Albanian land”.
Nationalists in Greece and Albania have long made claims on their respective lands, but relations between the Balkan neighbours have significantly improved since they signed a friendship treaty in 1996.
Albanian prime minister Sali Berisha’s remarks were in a text he sent to a museum to mark the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence from Ottoman rule and honour the founder of modern Albania, Ismail Qemali.
In the statement, he referred to “the Albania of all the Albanian lands from Preveza to Presevo, Skopje to Podgorica”.
Preveza is part of the northern Greek province of Epirus, where some ethnic Albanians lived before the Second World War, and Mr Berisha’s remark drew the ire of Athens.
“Such comments do not help in fostering a climate of friendship, trust and good neighbourly relations between the two countries,” the Greek foreign ministry said yesterday, adding that foreign minister Dimitris Avramopoulos had scrapped his trip over the matter.
Mr Berisha’s office sought to play down the spat, saying he was referring to the “historical context of a 100 years ago” and that did not “express any territorial claim to our neighbours in the south, north or east”.