"Redimensioning of Albanian-Greek Relations; Maritime Dispute to International Court"

Albania and Greece have agreed to refer a dispute over their maritime borders in the Ionian Sea to the Netherlands-based International Court of Justice. The joint decision was announced during a visit to Tirana by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.

"We have agreed to pass on this case to international justice," Dendias said after a meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama on Tuesday.

Rama said that taking the disagreement to the court in The Hague would join the dots based on the court's expertise and international maritime law. "Everyone has their ears open about Greece’s invasion of the sea, but you will regret it as there will be no invasion. We have agreed that Greece and Albania will turn to international justice to resolve the maritime agreement.”

Greece has recently launched a push to delimitate its sea borders with neighboring countries, amid high tensions – that threatened to trigger a military confrontation – with eastern neighbor Turkey over offshore energy exploitation rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. Athens has so far signed deals with Italy and Egypt.

Tirana and Athens inked a deal to define their maritime border in 2009, when Albania was governed by the Democratic Party that is now in opposition.

But Rama's Socialists, then in opposition, had challenged the agreement in court, claiming it cost the country 225 sq. kilometers (86 sq. miles) of territorial waters. Albania's Constitutional Court nullified the agreement nine months later, deeming it unconstitutional.

"That issue will not be at our discretion, nor that of the Greek side, but of international justice and in that way we shall focus on our economic [and] regional cooperation," Rama said.

However, sources indicated that there has been no co-commitment, which implies a written commitment between the two countries still needs to be made.

Relations between Greece and post-communist Albania have been at times uneasy, largely over minority rights, and Albania's repealing of the 2009 Ionian Sea agreement was another field of tension.

Greek FM's Pledge: 'State of War' to Be Nullified Soon

Dendias said that Greece would soon nullify the formal state of war still in place between the two countries since World War II, when fascist Italian forces invaded Greece through the Albanian border before being forced to retreat deep into Albania. As a matter of fact such promises have been made even before on occasions of visits of Greek dignitaries to Tirana but no action has been taken as yet.

In the meantime European Union member Greece has long backed Albania's desire to eventually join the 27-nation bloc. “We are ready to support Albania for EU membership. Greece has consistently supported the integration of the countries of the Western Balkans," said the Greek FM.

The governments in Tirana and Athens have said that the ethnic Greek minority in Albania and the large population in Greece of Albanians who emigrated there after the fall of communism serve as bridges linking the two countries.

 A Greek message from Tirana to Turkey

In the joint press conference with Prime Minister Rama, Greek Foreign Minister served a 'surprise' with a comment regarding the Greek neighbor, Turkey.

"An EU candidate country is moving against the EU, Turkey. It is violating the basic political and economic criteria in the EU. We sent it to Varlehey emphasizing that Turkey is violating the Customs Union. I have raised this issue with regret for the Commission to identify all violations," said Dendias.

Although the discussion on the Greek-Turkish relations was not on the Albanian agenda, it seems that the Greek chief diplomat chose Albania as a "friend and brother" country of Turkey to convey the Greek disappointment for the movements of the Turkish state in the opposite direction to the EU.

Prime Minister Edi Rama, found unprepared before this statement, responded with "Ejvallah", greeting him in Turkish as if to show that he is on the side of the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


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