ANKARAAs bilateral ties with Albania have been growing steadily, the Turkish government expects the Balkan country to take more concrete steps against the terror group FETO, Turkiye’s president said on Monday.
“It is our sincere expectation that Albania takes more concrete, decisive, and rapid steps against FETO in Albania,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a joint news conference in the capital Tirana alongside Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
The visiting Turkish leader said FETO – a group whose 2016 coup attempt in Turkiye was foiled but not before claiming 251 lives – poses a threat to every country where it has a presence.
“It deeply wounds us that (FETO) has still an area of activity in Albania,” he said.
Erdogan was in Albania at Rama’s invitation to attend a handover ceremony for over 500 housing units a Turkish agency built for victims of 2019 earthquake.
On bilateral trade, the Turkish president said it reached $853 billion in 2021, up 68% from a year earlier, and the two countries set a new target of $1 billion. He also said that Turkiye is already one of the top investors in Albania, with over 600 companies employing thousands of people.
“With this determination, we should continue to deepen our relations in every area,” Erdogan said.
The two also discussed the issue of the strategic partnership level of relations, the Turkish president said, adding that they highlighted the importance of making the high-level cooperation council mechanism more operational.
The council will meet in the first half of 2022, Erdogan said.
Need for Turkiye in Balkans countries
When a reporter said that amid questions about the EU’s credibility, the bloc and NATO need Turkiye in the Balkans, as it enjoys close ties with regional countries through its historical legacy and other factors, Erdogan said NATO’s approach to the Balkans is more important than the EU’s.
The president underlined that Turkiye is an “honorable and a powerful member” of NATO while the EU continues to use “delaying tactics” towards Turkiye’s membership bid.
Erdogan also stressed that Turkiye cares about peace and tranquility in the Balkans and it is one of the guarantor countries for regional peace.
Later Erdogan also addressed the Albanian parliament, reiterating that Turkiye hopes Albania will take essential steps against the FETO terror group.
On the COVID-19 pandemic, he said Turkiye will always stand with Albania by sharing its domestically developed Turkovac vaccine.
Rama, for his part, said Turkiye is an indispensable and irreplaceable element for EU security and stressed that he says as much in talks with NATO and the EU along with bilateral talks.
The premier asserted that the EU should not be at all disturbed by the close relations of Turkiye and Albania as the ties have deep roots.
Rama applauded Turkiye's role in helping promote peace in the Balkans and said smear campaigns targeting Erdogan are fake and divorced from reality.
Opening of restored historic mosque
President Erdogan also added that Turkiye is ready to maintain its support to Albania through the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), as he inaugurated the Ottoman-era Ethem Bey Mosque following restoration work by the agency.
He said the Ethem Bey Mosque – originally built between about 1791 and 1819 – is a piece of historical and cultural heritage shared by Turkiye and Albania, and the mosque was restored back to its former glory with help of his country.
According to the president, the state-run TIKA has realized a total of 546 projects in Albania since 1996, and Turkiye is eager to stand with the people of Albania in the future.
The countries also signed agreements in various areas, including disaster and emergency management, the media, state archives, culture and the arts, security, and youth and sports.
Rama said he was glad to be opening the mosque together with Erdogan, who he said is an indispensable partner for Albania, with the mosque reflecting the age-old traditional ties with the Turkish people.
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