Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Matthew Palmer had a meeting yesterday with a group of journalists inside the premises of the US Embassy to Tirana. Mr. Palmer offered his comments on a wide range of issues. The US senior official made it clear that the US will not intervene for the solution of the political crisis in the country, when he said that: “It’s up to political parties and political leaders to settle their disputes”. Meanwhile, he also stressed that “I’m not here to negotiate a resolution and I’m not here to advocate for a particular outcome”.
Asked about the official stance of the United States regarding the current crisis in Albania, the responsibility of the sides and whether the government should grant the opposition’s demands for an interim government and early elections, Mr. Palmer said:
“Our official stance is that Albania has a duly elected government, it is a partner for the U.S., it is one that we work well and closely with. In terms of how we see Albanian politics playing out, that is really for the political class to negotiate amongst themselves. I think it would be unfortunate for the opposition not to look for ways to reengage in the democratic process including, most immediately, in June. How it is that this process is resolved, the dispute is resolved, is really up to the political parties and the leaders of the political parties to work out”.
Palmer also said that “ The institutions of government in Albania are functioning, they’re legitimate. Albania has no trouble making decisions, passing laws. I am quite confident that this government will be able to continue to move the country forward toward a European future, will be in a position to continue to take actions in combating organized crime and fighting corruption, in pursuing judicial reforms, in conducting the vetting that is necessary so that the Albanian people can have confidence in the administration of justice. Here he added that “we will continue to partner with the relevant authorities, the elected representatives, the government officials in Albania in pursuit of those goals and objectives.
Meanwhile, Mr. Palmer said that he did not come to Tirana “to negotiate a solution” or “to advocate for a particular outcome”. Meanwhile, he appealed: “I would encourage all the political parties to participate in local elections”. Palmer said that: “instruments like boycotting elections or burning of mandates are fundamentally at odds with democratic practices”. Therefore, he encouraged opposition parties “ to look for ways that they can reengage in the political process”, stressing that “the local elections in June are the best opportunity for them to do this early”. Similar to PM Rama a few days ago, Mr. Palmer also ruled out dialogue between majority and opposition regarding the demands for Rama’s resignation, the creation of an interim government and the holding of early elections. Palmer said that dialogue should focus on the electoral reform: “To the extent that there’s an opportunity for dialogue with the government about electoral reforms, I think they should pursue that opportunity. According to Palmer, “electoral reforms are important in Albania, not as a vehicle for overcoming the current “crisis” or the current impasse, but because they are important for Albanian democracy”. Palmer added that he doesn’t see it “as the responsibility of the government to persuade the opposition to take part in the June elections”, adding that “it is the responsibility of the opposition to do so”.
During this meeting with journalists, Mr. Palmer confirmed that Kathy Kavalec will not be the new US ambassador to Albania, without specifying when a new ambassador will arrive to Tirana.
Mr. Palmer also commented Russia’s impact in the region. He said that the United States wants to see a region that is based on transparency, the rule of law, cooperation amongst nations on a European perspective. Meanwhile he added: “The Russians prefer a region that is organized on a basis of distrust, disorder, friction, chaos”. Nonetheless, he said that “Albania is a harder target for the Russians that places that are maybe a little more open to this kind of malign influence”.
Mr. Palmer also spoke about relations between Kosovo and Serbia. He said that the US advocates for “an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina that secures the full normalization of the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo”, adding that: “We believe that the centerpiece of that should be mutual recognition. That is, Serbia recognizing Kosovo as a sovereign and independent nation and Kosovo recognizing Serbia in the same way. And on the basis of that, these two independent countries working out their differences”.
Palmer also confirmed that the issue of borders may be a component of this agreement.