Turkish leader Erdogan visits Albania to strengthen relations
Albania and Turkey pledged on Monday to strengthen their ties and increase their economic and cultural relations.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Albania to hold talks with Prime Minister Edi Rama on strengthening bilateral relations and also inaugurate new Turkish-funded apartments for Albanians left homeless by the earthquake in 2019.
Upon landing, Erdogan immediately headed for the northwest town of Lac, 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of the capital Tirana, where Turkey has funded the construction of a 522 apartments at a cost of 42 million euros ($48 million).
An international conference less than two months after the November 26, 2019 earthquake that killed 51 people and left 17,000 homeless, has pledged more than a billion euros to rebuild homes, businesses and public buildings destroyed during the earthquake. Turkey was a major donor.
Last year, Turkey also built a new hospital to help Albania deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Turkey and Albania have signed seven agreements in various fields, including media, law enforcement, culture and emergency management.
Turkey is one of Albania’s largest investors and trade partners, contributing to investment and infrastructure development.
Erdogan said relations with Albania were “at the level of strategic partnership”, adding that the two countries aim to reach an annual exchange of 1 billion dollars against 853 million dollars (747 million euros) ago a year.
Erdogan also reiterated his demand for Albania to take “concrete and decisive steps” to remove the presence of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization, or FETO, which he called a terrorist organization.
Turkey claims that FETO and its US-based leader, Fetullah Gulen, orchestrated the failed July 15, 2016 coup in Turkey that left 251 people dead and nearly 2,200 injured. Gulen denied any involvement.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
A system of schools in Albania, from preschool to university level, was run by Gulen before ownership passed to other people.
“It hurts our nation that has martyred its children that FETO can still find areas of activity in friend and sister Albania,” Erdogan said.
The Albanian Prime Minister considered Turkey’s role in the Western Balkan region as “indispensable, inalienable and undoubtedly a constructive role for peace”.
Albania and Turkey have both applied to join the European Union, but that seems a long way off.
“Without Turkey, the EU would not be in the current situation, only worse,” Rama said. “Turkey is an inevitable safety valve for the EU,” Rama said.
Zeynep Bilginsoy contributed reporting from Istanbul.
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