Albanian PM to visit flashpoint in fraught Serbia visit

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama left Belgrade Tuesday for the Albanian-populated southern Presevo Valley a day after his historic visit to Serbia was marred by a clash with his hosts over Kosovo.

AFP| Updated: Nov 11, 2014, 14:43 PM IST

Tirana: Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama left Belgrade Tuesday for the Albanian-populated southern Presevo Valley a day after his historic visit to Serbia was marred by a clash with his hosts over Kosovo.

Rama was to meet local leaders in the region bordering Kosovo which is the home to a 60,000-strong ethnic Albanians.

Rama on Monday called for the rights of the ethnic Albanian minority in southern Serbia to be respected. 

In 2001, the area was the scene of violent clashes between Serb forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas fighting to unite it with Kosovo. 

Tensions have remained high ever since with Belgrade suspecting the Albanian minority of seeking secession, while ethnic Albanians complain of a lack of rights.

The Albanian leader`s Monday visit to Belgrade took a disastrous turn when Rama and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic clashed publicly over Kosovo.

Speaking at a press conference Rama called Serbia to recognise the "irreversible reality" of Kosovo`s independence, prompting visibly angry Vucic to say: "I will not allow anybody to humiliate Serbia in Belgrade."

Belgrade refuses to recognise the breakaway former Serbian province populated mostly by ethnic Albanians, which unilaterally declared its independence in 2008.

"I have to reply to him because I will not allow anybody to humiliate Serbia in Belgrade. Kosovo is part of Serbia under the constitution and it has nothing to do with Albania nor will it ever have," Vucic said. 

The public spat erupted during the first visit by an Albanian prime minister to Serbia in 68 years -- a trip which had to be delayed for three weeks after a heated diplomatic row in the wake of violence at a football match between the two countries.

Rama`s visit was aimed at helping turn the page on the past, marred with disagreements over Kosovo and position of ethnic Albanians in the Presevo Valley.