Remarks made by the prime minister of Albania on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence from Ottoman rule, have soured diplomatic ties with Greece.
Greece's Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos cancelled a trip to the Albanian capital of Tirana at the last moment when Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha referred to Greek terrority as part of Albania.
Ta Nea reported Berisha made nationalistic comments which could lead to a major diplomatic crisis as he gave a speech celebrating Albanian indepence, in which he referred to "all Albanian territories from Preveza to Presevo, from Skopje to Podgorica." Preveza is in northern Greek terrority in the prefecture of Epirus, an area fiercely fought over in the Greek civil war as Communists tried to take control.
The Greek Foreign Ministry released a statement in response to Berisha's comments, saying: "Statements like these do not contribute to creating a climate of friendship, trust and good-neighborly relations between the two countries" To Vima reported.
Greek politicians reacted in anger to Berisha's inflammatory statement and Tirana was informed the proposed visit of the Greek Foreign Minister would be cancelled if the remarks were not refuted. Berisha delayed before backtracking on his statement, too late for the planned visit to go ahead. Eventually a spokesman for Berisha said his remarks referred "to the historical context of 100 years ago and there is no territorial claim against our southern neighbors, the North or the East."
According to Ta Nea Athens is increasingly concerned about "the rising incidence of nationalism and anti-Greek voices in Albania." Albanians make no secret of their desire for a Greater Albania. With American backing Albanians took over Serbian Kosovo as part of their expansion plans for a Greater Albania. There are fears that Albanians could gain a foothold in Greek politics through the large number of Albanian immigrants.