26 Feb 2020 18:41

Russian FM, Albanian PM assess situation in bilateral relations differently

MOSCOW. Feb 26 (Interfax) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Albanian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Edi Rama began discussing the current situation in bilateral relations at a press conference on Wednesday.

"As regards relations with Russia, this is no secret, this is a fact: our relations are at a very low level. The Russian ambassador told me before we arrived that there have not been any phone conversations between Tirana and Moscow for many years, since Stalin's era, Albania being the only such country in the world. [...] Not a single phone conversation, already notwithstanding meetings and talks. However, one can certainly work on that, because, frankly speaking, I do not think that Russia is anyone's enemy," Rama said.

Relationships are sometimes competitive, "but they are never hostile," he said.

Russia makes it clear that the country is not going to change its stance on some issues, Rama said. "However, we will certainly try to do so. This is, ultimately, a reason for meetings with the minister and for further reading the encyclopedia of Russian foreign policy. This is a privilege, and it is given not to everybody. Thank you for that," he said.

Lavrov agreed that there had been no phone conversations between the Russian and Albanian leaders, but reminded Rama of the visit to Tirana in 2004.

"As regards phone calls, the statistics which you cited probably reflect reality. Shortly after I was appointed minister, I visited Tirana, where together with Albanian Foreign Minister Mr. Islami we signed a treaty on friendship and cooperation," Lavrov said.

The treaty "is still not ratified, because the Albanian side shelved this document and did not promote it," he said. "However, it exists, it is prepared, and we are quite able to put this document into practice so that we will pursue clear principles for the foundations of our relations," Lavrov said.

He additionally said he was sure that his phone calls with his Albanian counterpart would be regular. "You and I will have regular phone conversations, I am sure, this year at the least, and can discuss issues interesting for you and ourselves along with the OSCE issues. We are ready for that," Lavrov said.

Albania holds presidency in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) this year.

"I stand ready to go down in history with the first phone conversation after Stalin, which I will have with you," Rama said. "Yes, of course, we will continue to talk. Yes, there was an agreement. It was signed by you and the current opposition leader; he served as the foreign minister then. However, I must act according to principles: something that was signed by the previous government does not compulsorily have to be adopted by another government. Therefore, when I return home, I will study this case attentively, and we will inform you. I say what I do and I do what I say," the Albanian prime minister and foreign minister said.