Turkish leader Erdogan visits Albania to strengthen ties

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) – Albania and Turkey on Monday pledged to further strengthen ties and intensify economic and cultural ties.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Albania to hold talks with Prime Minister Edi Rama on strengthening bilateral ties and inaugurating new Turkish-funded housing for Albanians made homeless by the 2019 earthquake.

Upon landing, Erdogan immediately made his way to the northwestern city of Lac, 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of the capital Tirana, where Turkey is planning to build a 522-apartment complex at a cost of 42 million euros ($48 million). ) financed.

An international conference less than two months after the November 26, 2019 earthquake that killed 51 people and left 17,000 homeless, committed more than €1 billion to rebuild homes, businesses and public buildings damaged by the quake were destroyed. Turkey was a major donor.

Last year Turkey also built a new hospital to help Albania deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Turkey and Albania signed seven agreements in different areas including media, law enforcement, culture and emergency management.

Turkey is one of Albania’s largest investors and trading partners, contributing to infrastructure investment and development.

Erdogan said relations with Albania are “at the level of a strategic partnership,” adding both countries are targeting a $1 billion annual exchange from $853 million a year ago reach.

Erdogan also reiterated his call for Albania to take “concrete, decisive steps” to eliminate the presence of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization, or FETO, which he described as a terrorist organization.

Turkey says FETO and its US-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the failed July 15, 2016 coup in Turkey that killed 251 and wounded nearly 2,200. Gülen has denied any involvement.

Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state by infiltrating Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

A school system in Albania, from pre-school to university level, was run by Gülen before ownership was transferred to other people.

“It hurts our nation whose children have been martyred that FETO can still find outlets in friendly and fraternal Albania,” Erdogan said.

The Albanian Prime Minister considered Turkey’s role in the Western Balkans region as “essential, inalienable and undoubtedly a constructive role for peace”.

Both Albania and Turkey have applied to join the European Union, but that seems a long way off.

“Without Turkey, the EU would not be in the situation it is in now, it would be worse,” Rama said. “Turkey is an inevitable outlet for EU security,” Rama said.

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Zeynep Bilginsoy contributed to this report from Istanbul.

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