FM tells Albanian PM: Israeli embassy to open in Tirana

Move reflects considerable strengthening of ties between 2 countries; diplomatic officials say decision reflects Albania's importance as moderate Muslim country.

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November 22, 2011 02:40
2 minute read.
Netanyahu, Albanian PM Sali Berisha: Illustration

Netanyahu meets with Albanian PM Sali Berisha 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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Israel will open up a new embassy in Albania in the coming months, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told visiting Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha on Monday, reflecting a considerable strengthening of ties between the two countries.

The opening of the embassy in Tirana will be Israel’s 10th in countries that are members of the Organization of Islamic Conference: The others are in Egypt, Jordan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

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Diplomatic officials said the decision to open an embassy in Tirana is a reflection of the country’s economic potential, its diplomatic friendship, and its importance as a moderate Muslim country (Muslims make up 70 percent of the country’s 3.6 million residents).

Berisha said at the UN in September that while Albania supported Palestinian statehood, he thought unilateral action at this time at the UN would be unhelpful. Albania was also among the 52 countries that abstained earlier this month in the UNESCO vote – which passed – to accept “Palestine” into the organization, making it the only non-African member of the OIC to do so.

Up until now, Israel has been represented in Albania – with whom diplomatic relations were established in 1991 – by non-resident ambassador David Cohen. Albania has an embassy in Tel Aviv.

In addition to Lieberman, Berisha met Monday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

The Palestinian move at the UN in September, Berisha told Rivlin, didn’t help, but rather harmed, the diplomatic process.

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“Efforts to bypass Israel and the US were mistakes,” he was quoted as saying by Rivlin’s office. “It is not possible to bypass the need for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians are looking for shortcuts where none exist. There are no short cuts to a peace agreement that will last generations.”

Diplomatic officials said that the Albanians were very keen on Israeli investments in the country’s infrastructure. The officials said likely Israeli investors were being told that at some time in the future Albania will surely join the EU, meaning it will be easier to get in on the country’s economic development before that happens and the competition increases substantially.

This is Berisha’s third visit to Israel, having previously visited twice when he served as the country’s president in the mid 1990s. He was accompanied on his current visit by some 35 Albanian business leaders, who will be meting during his visit with Israeli business people.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Albania in the summer, the first Israeli foreign minister to do so in 17 years.

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