Albania’s prime minister, the first to visit Serbia in 68 years, has urged the Belgrade government to accept the independence of majority-Albanian Kosovo.
“The sooner you recognise [Kosovan independence] the sooner we can move ahead,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Monday.
The comments were translated into Serbian during a tense news conference in the capital with Rama’s Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic. Rama called the region’s independence “a reality”.
Vucic said that Rama’s remarks represented a “provocation” and that Serbia would never recognise Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, as a sovereign state.
“What does Albania have to do with Kosovo? Kosovo is not part of Albania and it will never be,” Vucic said.
Relations between Serbia and Albania have been tense for decades mainly over Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian-dominated former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008.
Serbia, which considers Kosovo the cradle of its statehood and religion, has never accepted its statehood.
Last month, a European Championship soccer qualifying match between the two countries’ national teams was suspended in Belgrade after a drone carrying an Albanian nationalist flag ignited clashes between players and fans.
The two prime ministers have previously traded blame for the incident.