BELGRADE, November 10 2014:Â Billed as a new chapter in the history of the Balkans, the first visit on Monday by an Albanian leader to Serbia in 68 years descended into a televised row between prime ministers over the independence of the majority-Albanian former Serbian province of Kosovo.
Serbia considers Kosovo the cradle of its nation and faith, but the vast majority of its 1.8 million people are ethnic Albanians who seceded in 2008 with the backing of the West almost a decade after NATO went to war to halt a wave of ethnic cleansing.
“We have two entirely different positions on Kosovo, but the reality is one and unchangeable,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said at a televised press conference with his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic. “Independent Kosovo is an undeniable regional and European reality, and it must be respected.”
Visibly angered, Vucic said he had not expected such “provocation”.
“According to the constitution Kosovo is Serbia and I am obliged to say that no one can humiliate Serbia.”
Rama responded: “I’m sorry, but that is the reality that many recognize. The sooner you recognize (that), the sooner we can move ahead.”
Rama’s visit, the first by an Albanian leader since Communist dictator Enver Hoxha in 1946, had already been postponed from Oct. 22 when a diplomatic row erupted over an abandoned soccer match between Serbia and Albania in Belgrade.
The game was halted when a drone carrying a flag of ‘Greater Albania’ flew over the pitch, triggering a brawl between players and a pitch invasion by Serbian fans.