Ex- Ambassador Lauds Thaw in Iranian- Albanian Ties
By Genc Mlloja
Albanian Daily News
Published February 18, 2017

The relations between Iran and Albania have marked a
significant step forward after the visit of the Foreign Minister, Ditmir
Bushati to Teheran on January 14-15 this
year, which was an opportunity to win the time lost in the ties between the two
countries and people, Mr. Alibeman Eghbali Zarch, the head of the Iran-Albania
Friendship Association has said.

Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati was received in
Tehran by President Hassan Rouhani who was quoted by Tehran- based daily the
Tehran Times as saying that the current atmosphere is a good opportunity to
expand Tehran-Tirana relations. "The post-JCPOA period is a good opportunity to
expand and deepen Tehran-Tirana cooperation in various areas, especially the
economic sphere, and the opportunity should be used by the two countries'
private sectors," said Mr. Rouhani. The Foreign Minister held official talks
with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and said Albania is
determined to expand relations with Iran.

The Tehran Times also quoted Mr. Bushati as mentioning that
the lack of knowledge regarding trade capacities and investment opportunities
as the main reasons for low volume of trade between the two countries and
emphasized the need for holding more economic meetings, exhibitions and

The visit of Mr. Bushati, which has marked a thaw in the
frozen relations between Albania and Iran for many years, was also praised
highly by Mr. Alibeman Eghbali Zarch, who was Ambassador to Tirana from
December 2006 until February 2010 and a well- known diplomat for his untiring
attempts to improve the relations between his country and Albania. Despite the
lack of normal contacts between the two governments, Mr. Eghbali did not spare
his efforts to promote the relations between the two people and it is the
occasion to highlight the fact that his frequent interviews in the local media,
but especially with Albanian Daily News, gave constant messages that re-
establishment of mutual friendly relations would be to the benefit of the two

"It is clear to all that between the Iranian and
Albanian people there are many common cultural elements, which have century-
long roots," said the former Ambassador after the recent visit of
Albania's top diplomat in mid- January this year, an initiative which the
former had promoted  in many contributions
published in Albanian Daily News during his tenure in Tirana. A clear example
of the contribution of Iran to keep alive the people-to-people relations with
Albania has been the Cultural Foundation "Saadi Shirazi", which is
devoted to the development of Persian and Albanian culture and linguistic
relations since its establishment in Tirana. 

The 'overtures' of Mr. Eghbali and his followers to Tirana
for a mutual exchange of visits at ministerial level did not produce any result
and all proposals of the Iranian side were 'shelved' at that time, but it is to
be noted that such a thing did not discourage them to keep alive the
possibility of establishment of normal relations.

On this occasion I personally cannot fail to praise their
pragmatism and expectation expressed in the frequent interviews or exchange of
views we have had for more than a decade summed up in their words: 'Things will
change'! At that time they were well aware of the fact that it was not a
question of Albania alone, but any political move towards Iran was connected
and conditioned by the tense relations of that country with the United States
and some Western countries. Although Washington and most of the European
countries started to re- establish the links with Tehran after the conclusion
of the deal on Iran's nuclear program in July of 2015, it took more time for
the Albanian diplomacy to change its 'cautious' course and follow the example
of its strategic allies. 

"Many European countries, especially those of the
Central and Eastern Europe, started the high-level negotiations during the time
of the negotiations of Iran & P5+1, and there were demands from them since
three years to travel to Iran and hold negotiations with Doctor Zarif, Iran's
top diplomat," Mr. Eghbali said. 

Like other diplomats, former Ambassador Eghbali repeated in
his last opinion that the cooperation in the field of energy between Iran and
Albania could be of high importance. 
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has the largest natural gas resources
in the world and is ranked the fifth with regards to the oil reserves, while
Albania imports half of the quantity of oil that it consumes domestically and
the major part of the gas which it consumes. Given its geographic position your
state can play an important role for the supply of a part of gas from Iran to
Europe and at the same it can secure its needs for gas," he thinks.

It was reported that the question of the opening of an
Albanian embassy in Teheran was discussed during Mr. Bushati's visit and with
regards to this Mr. Eghbali recalls:

"Since the time that I have been present in your
beautiful country, I was of the opinion that the permanent presence of Albanian
representatives in Tehran could help for the better conception and knowledge by
your leaders of the political realities as, for example, the religious
democracy, economy, construction and development, culture like intensive
dynamics of the scientific and technological progress in Iran," he said,
adding that without doubt the opening of the embassy would promote the tourist
exchanges between the two states. "It is a reality the fact that the two
people nourish mutual respect and interest and required reciprocally to visit
tourist countries and the cult monuments of the two states," he noted.

In a comment on an award granted to Grandfather Hajji Baba
Mondi (Albanian: Haxhi Baba Edmond Brahimaj) by the former US President, Barack
Obama, Mr. Eghbali confessed that when he was Iran's top envoy to Tirana he had
a balanced cooperation with all the heads of the religious communities in that
Balkan country.

There are four main beliefs in Albania: Muslims, Orthodox,
Catholics and Bektashi. The latter's status is known as being the center of
Bektashism in the world and Baba (Kryegjyshi) Mondi is the world leader of the
Bektashi Order. In the meantime this Balkan country itself is considered as a
unique case of the co-existence of various religious in the region and beyond.

"There are many years that I have not been in Albania
and when I was there I have had a balanced and equilibrated cooperation with
the different religious heads. A part of the population of Albania are
followers of Bektashism, which is part of the Alevi Muslim groups. This
community has a special link with the Twelve Imams, especially with Imam Reza
(a.s.) whose mausoleum is in the city of Mashhad in Iran. The respected Baba
Edmond Brahimaj enjoys my respect as a Bektashi leader because he is respected
by the people of Albania," said the former Iranian Ambassador. "But
it is important the fact that the religious communities in Albania have
friendly relations with each other and are distinguished for the excellent
co-existence," Mr. Eghbali said.

A topic which has been raised many times to Iran, an
important member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), has been
the question of the recognition of Kosovo, and as a matter of fact that issue
was raised to him in interviews that Albanian Daily News had with him and other
Iranian Ambassadors in Tirana.

The OIC, in its 38th session of the Council of Foreign
Ministers, held in Astana in Kazakhstan on July 5, 2011, approved a Resolution
on the situation in Kosovo. The Organization called for the first time for
Kosovo's recognition by its member states. 
In point eight of the Resolution, OIC "called on all member states of
the Organization of the Islamic Conference to consider recognizing Kosovo, in
accordance with their free and sovereign rights and national practice."

Kosovo's recognition was also part of the discussions that
Albania's Foreign Minister had in Tehran with his counterpart. A statement
released by Albanian foreign ministry pointed out that "Minister Bushati
requested the government of Iran to recognize Kosovo as an extremely important
step to strengthen stability in the region of Southern Europe."

Kosovo is an independent country in the Balkans since
February 18, 2008, and is recognized by more than 112 countries a process which
continues. There are many Muslim countries, even members of the OIC, which have
established diplomatic relations with Kosovo like Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia,
Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, Yemen, Libya etc.

But, according to Mr. Eghbali, Kosovo authorities could have
undertaken initiatives to meet Iranian authorities themselves. "I think
that Kosovo authorities should hold meetings with the Iran's high state officials
to explain their stances and points of view," said the former Ambassador
of Iran to Albania.

Speaking on the same issue in an interview with Albanian
Daily News on February 1, 2017, the current Ambassador of Iran to Albania,
Gholamhossein Mohammadnia said that Mr. Bushati raised Kosovo's recognition
issue. "Let diplomacy work," the Ambassador said, pointing out that there were
no political reasons for Iran's failure to establish diplomatic relations with

Like the former Ambassador, Mr. Eghbali, even the current
top envoy of Tehran to Tirana, Mr. Mohammadnia was enthusiastic for Albanian
Foreign Minister's visit to Tehran considering it an historic event, which, as
he said, would be a basis for the development and deepening of the bilateral
relations between Iran and Albania.

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