By Linda Karadaku

On a three-day trip to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha criticised unilateral efforts by the Palestinian Authority to achieve the status of a sovereign state. Such moves "do not advance a political solution, but sabotage the peace process", Israel's National News Agency quoted him as saying.

"The Palestinians must understand that this is not the way," Berisha said. "Peace between Israel and the Palestinians must pass through direct negotiations and promises of security for the two states."

Berisha met with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other key officials during the visit, which concluded on Wednesday (November 23rd).

He sought to boost business ties with Israel further, encouraging investors to participate in projects such as the construction of around 443 new hydropower stations. During his meeting with Peres, he pointed to agriculture, education, tourism, energy and information technology as key fields in for fostering economic co-operation.

According to analyst Henri Cili, a professor at the European University of Tirana, the visit demonstrates the importance of Israel's influence in international relations and the growth of Israeli business dealings in Albania.

"There are at least 20 Israeli companies doing business in Albania in different fields, such as fishing, energy, services and more," Cili told SETimes.

He said the trip highlights Albania's role in the international arena. "It will also have an impact on Kosovo, which Israel has not recognised yet as a state."

Albania has taken a cautious approach to the Palestine issue, he said, describing Berisha's stance as realistic and pragmatic.

"I don't think it will have any impact on the relations with Turkey or other countries. There are very good, traditional relations with Turkey. The relations with Israel are very important," Cili said.

Meanwhile, Alban Bala of the Tirana-based firm Comport says strengthened economic ties can help Albania cope with the current global economic downturn. Investments in agriculture represents a tangible benefit for Albania while also providing Israel with additional food supplies at a time when food commodities are expected to undergo significant price increases, he said.

In addition, Bala said, the real estate market in Albania -- which is likely to see rising prices as the country progresses towards EU accession -- could be strengthened by a fresh infusion of Israeli liquidity.

"At the same time Albania needs to develop its own capital market, which is of interest to cash-rich countries like Israel," Bala said.

Ties between the two countries reflect a long tradition of friendship.

The Balkan country has been widely praised for the fact that none of the Jews sheltered in Albania during World War II were handed over to the Nazis.

Then-communist Albania granted Israel formal recognition shortly after Israel declared its independence in 1948. Diplomatic relations, however, were not established until August 1991 when the communist system collapsed.


- Provided by Southeast European Times

World - Albania: Berisha Nurtures Albanian-Israeli Ties | Global Viewpoint