Saturday, May 21, 2016

Your Views Are Ignorant: London Mayor Invites Trump to Learn About Islam

Sadiq Khan

© REUTERS/ Peter Nicholls

New London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim to hold the post, invited US Republican frontrunner for the presidential post Donald Trump to visit London and meet Muslims, after the latter called to ban all followers of Islam from the United States.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Khan said that many people have not had any experience of Islam and have only learnt about it from television "when there are criminals, terrorists, bad people committing acts of terror and terrorism, using the name of Islam to justify their acts. And so I accept some people’s view of Islam may be clouded by what they see on the TV and the news."
"So my point to Donald Trump is: if it is the case that your views on Islam are ignorant, if it is the case that you have not met Muslims who are compatible with, comfortable with Western values, to all purposes ‘normal’ – come to London. There are literally hundreds of thousands of Londoners who are Muslim and Western," Khan, a member of the Labour party, told the Huffington Post newspaper in an interview released Friday.
In December 2015, Trump proposed a "total and complete" ban for Muslims entering the United States, as well as an Islamic registration and control of certain mosques. He also accused Muslims of celebrating the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The business tycoon said he would exempt Khan from the ban after the latter expressed his fears that he would not be able to travel to the United States by virtue of his faith. Khan slammed the proposal, saying that Trump’s views of Islam could harm both London and Washington because it could alienate mainstream Muslims around the world and so contribute to the spread of extremism.


Trump Responds to Muslim London Mayor Khan: "I Will Remember Those Statements"

Donald Trump talks about British Prime Minister David Cameron and newly elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a wide-ranging interview with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain. Trump has been critical of Khan and how he plans to deal with Islamic extremism in the UK capital.

Khan said Trump's views are "ignorant, divisive and dangerous" and plays right into the hands of Islamic extremists.

"I think they were very rude statements and, frankly, tell him I will remember those statements," Trump said. "They are very nasty statements. I just think it's very rude of him. In fact it's the opposite. I wished him well when I heard he won, he's a Muslim."

"I think it's ignorant of him to say that," Trump added.

Russian Envoy: Montenegro Accession to NATO Deepens Divisions Within Europe

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Igor Luksic address a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015

© AP Photo/ Virginia Mayo

Russia's envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko said that Montenegro’s accession to NATO weakens regional security and deepens the dividing lines in Europe.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Montenegro’s accession to NATO weakens regional security and deepens the dividing lines in Europe, Russia's envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko said. "This is not the alliances first expansion, and, of course, not a single round of expansion has improved our relations with the countries that had decided to join NATO," Grushko told journalists on Friday, adding that "the expansion itself generates a psychology of frontline states, in essence creating new or moving old dividing lines in Europe and contradicts the necessity of creating a new system of collective security of the continent."
Grushko stressed that new threats and risks that Europe faces demand collective efforts and Montenegro cannot provide a weighty security input.
"What serious input into security can we talk about if the country in question has 2,000 military personnel?" the Russian envoy said, adding that "probably, this [NATO accession] is yet another step that weakens regional security and stability and aggravates dividing lines, including in the Balkan region."
On Thursday, the foreign ministers of NATO member states signed an accession protocol for Montenegro, granting the Balkan country observer status at alliance meetings. Montenegro will be granted membership to the alliance once the protocol is ratified by all 28 NATO member states.
Russia's Foreign Ministry has warned that the negotiations over Montenegro's NATO membership will harm Eurasian and Atlantic security systems, as well as relations between Russia and the alliance.
NATO invited Montenegro to join the military bloc in December 2015. It was the alliance’s first expansion into Eastern Europe in six years. Montenegro accepted the invitation the following day, which triggered protests in the Balkan nation.
On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the accession of Montenegro into NATO will significantly raise the degree of tensions on the European continent.

The Meaning of Jihadist Silence on the EgyptAir Crash

EgyptAir planes on the tarmac at Cairo International Airport on May 19. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)


As the investigation into the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 continues and searchers begin to find evidence, the jihadist world has been strangely silent. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft early May 19 and we are now nearly outside the timeframe in which jihadist groups have ordinarily taken credit for attacks. The one obvious explanation for this is that a catastrophic mechanical or electrical failure brought down the aircraft rather than a bomb, but given all of the indications that point to an attack, it is worth exploring the lack of a claim of responsibility and what that means for attributing the cause of the crash.
The primary jihadist actors with the capability and willingness to bring down Flight 804, the Islamic State and al Qaeda, both have sophisticated public relations and media outlets that they can use to quickly claim responsibility for attacks. Looking back to the last air disaster, Russian MetroJet Flight 9268, which went down over the Sinai Peninsula in 2015, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack the same day. Islamic State also claimed other recent attacks in Brussels, Jakarta and Paris within a day. Similarly, al Qaeda affiliates behind the series of attacks against West African hotels claimed those the same or the following day. The San Bernardino attackers attributed their actions to Islamic State just before carrying them out, but it took the group's central media arm three days to praise the attack — likely because it was conducted by a grassroots jihadist acting in their name.
Judging by the pattern of previous claims, if the Islamic State, al Qaeda or a regional affiliate were behind this attack, we would have expected to see a claim of responsibility by now. The lack of a claim, however, does not rule out terrorism in the EgyptAir incident. The Islamic State and al Qaeda are most powerful when it comes to their ideology and their propaganda is more useful at inspiring grassroots jihadists to conduct their own attacks than in providing quality instruction on how to carry out an attack. If this were a grassroots attack, carried out independently by a cell in France, Tunisia or Eritrea (all locations where the aircraft had been over the 24-hour period before it crashed), then jihadist leaders and their media wings would be scrambling along with the rest of us to figure out what happened. As in the San Bernardino attack, it might take a few days for the jihadist propaganda arms to formulate a response.
The more sinister but less likely explanation is that a terrorist group has figured out a novel way to attack aircraft and is concealing its involvement in order to replicate the attack elsewhere. We saw this kind of covert activity in the 1995 Bojinka plot. The bombing of Philippines Airlines Flight 434 in December 1994 was not claimed because the planners hoped to use an improved version of the same device in a larger attack targeting 10 trans-Pacific airliners.
While authorities were quick to respond to the 2001 shoe bomb and the 2009 underwear bombs, if those devices had functioned as designed and destroyed the aircraft (especially over water), it may have taken months or years for investigators to determine the cause. This would have given the bombers a large window to replicate it. In a worst-case scenario, we may have a competent bombmaker on the loose with knowledge of how to get a bomb onto a plane, and the authorities have no idea what method he is using.
The fact that Egypt Air Flight 804 went down over water makes the investigation much more difficult than past investigations over land — some of which took years to solve, like Pan Am Flight 103. It has been over two years since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared and investigators have only recently even recovered portions of the aircraft — much less determined the cause. Air France Flight 447 similarly crashed over the Atlantic in 2009. It took over three years to determine that technical problems caused that crash, plenty of time for terrorist to replicate tactics had it been an attack. Flight 804's crash site is much closer to land and not subject to the same currents that have wreaked havoc on the MH370 investigation. Still, the crash occurred in waters that can be up to a mile deep, making recovery of debris or the black box on the seafloor very complicated.
Judging by recent air disasters that have occurred over water, we will not likely have conclusive forensic results on what downed Flight 804 for months or years to come — if ever — leaving the all-important "how" question unanswered. Land-based investigations into ground crew, cabin crew, passengers and satellite reconnaissance are more likely to yield results before evidence from the crash site, but will not necessarily provide the full story of what happened. Complicating the already herculean task is the cooperation required between Egypt, Greece, France and any other countries that get involved in the investigation. International turf battles can cause delays over who is in charge, including the thorough and timely processing of evidence. The absence of claims of responsibility might alleviate fears of a terrorist attack, but in a worst-case scenario, it could also be a sign of more attacks to come.

Idrizi: We voted to the Territorial Division, disrupting the creation of the Region of Northern Epirus

Idrizi: Territorial reforms voted in 30 July 2014, it is becoming a problem not only electoral between political parties, but also geopolitics".

As it has happened in the census in 2011, the Party that represents the nationalist interests of the Cham Community , PDIU when they proposed criminal penalties "who declared as Greek nationality", is the second time that this political party openly stated stance by Albanian politicians on the New Territorial Division of the vote in 2014.

Tirana. During a Congressional Session within PDIU elections, the Party that defends the interests of Cham Community, The Chairman, Shpetim Idrizi, analyzed the activity of this Nationalist Party, which accuses Greece, for genocide against the Cham Community, during World War II.

He called as " the Great Victory" the adoption of The Territorial Division of vote by the Albanian Parliament in July of 2014, stated that "with the votes of our Party, we avoid creating zones of the Northern Epirus, an aspiration of the Greek nationalism" noted Idrizi

But over all, Idrizi during his speech, continuing to declare for a resolution to be adopted by the Albanian Parliament about Chamuria, and proposes to see from the international community, to put pressure on Greece to grant a Autonomy to the Cham community in Greece ".

Despite the heightened nationalist rhetoric, the declarations of the head of the PDIU created the impression in the opinion that "The Territorial Division, separately, was a creature for administrative elections, which favored the government, but at the same time has destroyed the existence of the Greek Communities in the South of Albania, bringing together municipalities , with Muslim Majority, the Greek ones, as was the case of Himara ..

Idris also mentioned Former US Ambassador in Tirana, Alex Arvizu, who officially invited, PDIU to vote for the territorial division, having become a great service, to the nation.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hillary Clinton is “a danger to world peace,” says France’s Marine Le Pen

In a recent interview with RT, France's French National Front party leader, Marine Le Pen, warned the world of the dangers ahead should Hillary be elected US President.
National Front party leader and 2017 French presidential frontrunner, Marine Le Pen, has not endorsed Donald Trump, but in an interview with RT her opinion regarding a Hillary Clinton Presidency, is as good as an endorsement for The Don.

For Le Pen, a Clinton Presidency would “not benefit” France, be “destructive” for Europe, and ultimately be a “danger to world peace.”

What could have Le Pen thinking such thoughts?

Maybe its Hillary’s diehard support for Bush’s Iraq war, or her husband’s dismantling of Yugoslavia and 72 day illegal bombing of Serbia.
Perhaps it’s Hillary’s mentor Madeleine Albright, who finds it necessary to kill 500,000 Iraqi children in the name of neo-liberal values. Maybe it’s gal pal Vitoria Nuland, and her neocon family ties, who oversaw the illegal coup in Ukraine and funded the civil war in East Ukraine.

Or maybe its Libya…who can forget Hillary’s Libya “success”.

RT reports…
“There is a candidate who appears a lot more dangerous for France than the others – that’s Hillary Clinton,” the head of the National Front told RT France in an exclusive interview. “I’m not American so I don’t need to make a choice. But…in the interests of France, Hillary Clinton is probably the worst choice out there.”
Le Pen sees the Democratic frontrunner as being so “dangerous” because of Clinton’s career as US Secretary of State, in which she worked “hand in hand with the full spectrum of American decisions” that eventually “plunged the world objectively into chaos.”
“I think if she was elected she would continue this policy, a destructive policy, a policy of conflict, a policy of imprisonment of Europe in blinded Atlanticism,” Le Pen said. “I think it’s a danger for world peace.”
Le Pen was also critical of Donald Trump and his comments on Muslims entering the United States, noting to RT that she has never once taken the muslim debate to the low level that Trump did.
“Seriously, have you ever heard me say something like that?” Le Pen said in one of her interviews, presumably in response to being compared with Trump. “I defend all the French people in France, regardless of their origin, regardless of their religion.”
The US media has repeatedly drawn comparisons between Marine Le Pen and Trump. The New York Times called the real estate mogul turned GOP frontrunner “America’s Marine Le Pen”. Bloomberg has also referred to Le Pen as “Europe’s own Donald Trump.”
And while Le Pen may not be endorsing one candidate over the other (though its obvious she would feel more at ease should Trump be elected), Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the retired leader and founder of the French National Front, did indeed endorse Trump in February, via twitter.
In his tweet, the former National Front leader said that if he was an American, he “would vote Donald Trump.”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Foreign Ministers agree NATO must do more to project stability in its neighbourhood

  • 19 May. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 19 May. 2016
Foreign Ministers agreed on Thursday (19 May 2016) that NATO should do more to project stability beyond the Alliance’s borders. While stressing that NATO must retain the ability to deploy combat forces when needed, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said “we must also do more to train up local forces, to secure their own territory, and push back against extremist groups.” He underlined that such efforts are important for “preserving security here at home”.
Family Portrait
Ministers reviewed the Alliance’s support for partners to the south and the east, and considered how to expand NATO’s efforts. Ongoing initiatives include training for hundreds of Iraqi officers in Jordan; cyber defence projects with Jordan; and help developing special forces training and a national intelligence centre for Tunisia. To the east, NATO provides capacity-building help to Georgia and Moldova, and helps support Ukraine with its ongoing reforms.
The Secretary General announced that he would send “an assessment team to Iraq as soon as possible,” following a request by Prime Minister Al-Abadi to expand NATO training into Iraq. Ministers also discussed how the Alliance could further support the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, including with AWACS surveillance planes.
Ministers also decided to continue preparatory work with a view to assisting Libya strengthen its defence and security institutions, provided the Libyans so request.
We also agreed that the Alliance can do more in the Mediterranean Sea, in cooperation with the European Union and other actors,” said the Secretary General. He explained that NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean will become a broader maritime security operation, including tasks such as upholding freedom of navigation, interdiction, and supporting maritime counter-terrorism.
NATO has a long history of projecting stability, through operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, military training missions such as in Iraq, and capacity-building for over 40 partners. “But we can and should do more,” concluded Mr. Stoltenberg.

Greece’s Air Force, Navy Searching for Missing EgyptAir Jet MS804

By Kerry Kolasa-Sikiaridi -
May 19, 2016
Greek Reporter

egyptair-mesogeios-1070_0Greece has deployed its Air Force and Navy in efforts to help the Egyptian military locate a missing EgyptAir plane that was carrying 66 people on board. A tweet on the airline’s official account said that flight MS804 left Paris at 11:09 pm (2109 GMT), “heading to Cairo (and) has disappeared from radar.”

The airline also released statements via twitter that the last contact with the aircraft was at 2:45 am Cairo time (0045 GMT), as the plane entered Egyptian airspace at an altitude of 37,000 feet (11,000 meters), and that there was no distress call made by the crew. EgyptAir said that on board the Airbus A320 were 56 passengers, including a little boy and two babies, seven crew members and three security men.

The Egyptian military has focused their search and rescue teams on a sea area north of the Egyptian coast. A source in the Greek General Staff said that in efforts to help find flight MS804, Greece’s Air Force has deployed their C-130 Hercules which is conducting search efforts in the region in cooperation with other aircraft participating in the search and rescue operation.

Also, they have deployed a Naval frigate to help in the search, as well as two helicopters that are on standby on the island of Karpathos. Further, he stated that the military does not have any information on the whereabouts of the passenger jet. “We only have information from the flight controllers from Greece and Egypt that the plane’s signal was lost when it was 130 miles away from Karpathos.”

Nato risks nuclear war with Russia 'within a year', warns senior general


The West has been advised to act now to avert 'potential catastrophe'
General Sir Richard Shirreff, who served as Nato’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe between 2011 and 2014, said that an attack on Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia – all Nato members – was a serious possibility and that the West should act now to avert “potential catastrophe”.

He has written a fictional book 2017 War with Russia, but told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the events it describes were “entirely plausible”.

General Shirreff said: “The chilling fact is that because Russia hardwires nuclear thinking and capability to every aspect of their defence capability, this would be nuclear war.
“We need to judge President Putin by his deeds not his words,” he added. “He has invaded Georgia, he has invaded the Crimea, he has invaded Ukraine. He has used force and got away with it.

“In a period of tension, an attack on the Baltic states… is entirely plausible.”
Nato members would be obliged under Article 5 of its founding treaty to come to the defence of another member if it came under attack.

General Shirreff said that Mr Putin could be persuaded into an intervention in the Baltic by a “perception” of weakness in Nato, and predicted that, as in Crimea, the Russian president would present his actions as an act of defence to protect the large Russian-speaking minorities in those countries.

Nato has already stepped up defences in the Baltic states, but General Shirreff said that it needed to “raise the bar sufficiently high for any aggressor to say it is not worth the risk."

“I would argue the bar is not high enough at the moment,” he added.

In the preface to his book, General Shirreff is critical of recent defence cuts in the UK, writing: “A country famous for once ‘walking softly and carrying a big stick’… now had a leadership that shouted loudly but, thanks to ongoing defence cuts, carried an increasingly tiny and impotent stick.”

U.S., France Differ Over Readiness of NATO Missile-Defense Shield

U.S. officials worry delays in NATO taking operational control would be seen as a sign of weakness by Moscow 

Wall Street Journal

The radar building of a missile defense site in Deveselu, southern Romania, before an opening ceremony attended by U.S., NATO and Romanian officials on May 12. The site is integral to NATO’s missile-defense system.The radar building of a missile defense site in Deveselu, southern Romania, before an opening ceremony attended by U.S., NATO and Romanian officials on May 12. The site is integral to NATO’s missile-defense system. Photo: Associated Press
PARIS—French officials said they are withholding their approval for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to take control of the U.S.-built European missile-defense system, a position alliance and American officials hope they can persuade Paris to change before an alliance summit in July.
U.S. officials say they are worried that any delay in having NATO take operational control of the system would be interpreted by Russia as a sign of weakness.
Russia has repeatedly expressed opposition to the system, arguing it is a threat to its nuclear deterrent. NATO officials insist the system is neither designed to nor capable of nullifying Russia’s missiles arsenal, and instead is intended to thwart a missile attack from countries such as Iran.
Alliance and U.S. officials believe that if NATO doesn’t use its July summit in Warsaw to take control of the missile-defense system and declare it operational, Russia will declare that the alliance is bending to its will.
A French official said Paris’s concerns have nothing to do with Russian opposition, but rather over whether the NATO command and control would work.
“We are not sold on IOC,” said the French official, using the acronym for initial operating capability, the military term for the next stage of the system’s development.
French officials say they want to make sure that the system is truly under alliance, not American control.
“It is not just a technical question, there is a political aspect,” the French official said. “If it is [a] NATO system, NATO takes the responsibility if you shoot down the missile. NATO takes responsibility if you miss.”
Another French official added that the NATO command and control system wasn’t ready and that the system remained an American one. “The C2 system is not sufficiently mature to allow NATO to control the situation,” the official said.
French officials are analyzing the results of an April exercise, Steadfast Alliance, designed to test whether the system is operationally ready. NATO’s top military officer will make a recommendation whether he considers the system ready.
Bob Bell, the top defense official in the U.S. mission to NATO, said last month that the U.S. remained “very confident we are on track” to declare in initial operating capability in Warsaw.
Mr. Bell, speaking last month at the Royal United Services Institute in London, acknowledged there was “some homework to do,” but expressed confidence that any remaining issues over the missile-defense system could be addressed. He suggested, though, that Paris harbored concerns. “The French are fond of saying: ‘Yes, it works in practice, but does it work in theory?’” Mr. Bell told the think tank.
The short flight time of ballistic missiles requires military commanders trying to shoot them down to make nearly instantaneous decisions. U.S. officials said that once NATO took command the system would intercept missiles based on rules laid down by alliance ambassadors.
Alliance military leaders and foreign ministers are gathering in Brussels this week but missile defense isn’t on the formal agenda, as officials work to answer French officials’ questions about the command-and-control system.
The alliance used common funding to build its own command-and-control system at Ramstein air base in Germany for the American-designed radar and missile systems. Alliance officials are also promoting other allies’ contributions, including British radar and Dutch ships.
If the system is transferred to NATO in July, U.S. officials hope that it will be at full operating capability in 2023, after the completion of an interceptor site in Poland. A NATO official involved in the process said the final decision on whether to declare the system operationally ready will likely go down to the wire.
The most important part of the system—the Romanian radar and interceptor site, the Turkey-based X-band radar used to help target the interceptors, and Spain-based U.S. naval destroyers capable of shooting down ballistic missiles—are U.S. equipment.
French and alliance officials said if the capability isn’t made official at Warsaw, the system could be transferred in the following months.
“Are we going to reach that goal by the time of Warsaw or will it take longer? The short answer is, we don’t know yet,” said Roberto Zadra, head of integrated air-and-missile defense at NATO’s defense investment division. “Collectively we are not there yet.”
Write to Julian E. Barnes at and Robert Wall at

Veneto Regional Council Adopts Crimea Resolution Condemning EU Policy

Bridge of Sighs, Venice

© Flickr/ ragingwire

The council of Italy's Veneto region adopted a resolution on Wednesday calling for the country's government to condemn EU's Crimea policy and work toward lifting sanctions against Russia.

ROME (Sputnik) — Twenty-seven out of 51 members of the regional council voted in favor of the resolution, while nine voted against.
The document, which was initiated by 25 out of 51 regional MPs, calls on Italian authorities to condemn the EU's "discriminatory and unfair" policy on the Crimean issue, urging them to recognize the referendum on Crimea's reunification with Russia.
Earlier this month, Valdegamberi told Sputnik Italian that just in one year the Veneto region lost more than 600 million euro ($679.8 million) due to the decline in exports to Russia and was facing a collapse of the prices for dairy products and fruits as a result of the embargo, which Moscow announced in retaliation to the EU sanctions. Last month, France's lower house of parliament supported a similar resolutioEarlier this month, Valdegamberi told Sputnik Italian that just in one year the Veneto region lost more than 600 million euro ($679.8 million) due to the decline in exports to Russia and was facing a collapse of the prices for dairy products and fruits as a result of the embargo, which Moscow announced in retaliation to the EU sanctions.

Bust of Hillary Clinton going up in oldest Greek Town, now occupied by Albanian

The southern Albanian town of Agia Saranda, a oldest Greek center near Corfu Island,  actually occupied by Albanian communities, is erecting a bust of U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to mark her contribution in the international arena for the Albanian nation.

The city council (in majority composted by Albanians) unanimously decided a day earlier to display the sculpture of the former U.S. Secretary of State on the main boulevard along the shore, due to her "dimension as a woman in politics, as a representative of the old Albania-U.S. friendship, for her contribution to the Albanian nation in different historical moments."

Agia Saranda is a tourist town close to the ancient Hellenic archaeological spot of Butrint.
Still 1991 Agia Saranda was a center of the greek minority, inhabited by about 9 thousand people, but after years until now, the town is become more Albanians than Greek community, factorized by the national expansionism of Albanian versus South.

Albania Security Chiefs Testify About Mystery Device

Chiefs of the four highest security institutions in the country testified to MPs on Wednesday about the mysterious police training device that some say is being used for illicit wiretapping. 


The head of Informative Service, Visho Ajazi testifing on Wednesday in the Parliament | Photo: LSA/Malton Dibra

The head of Albania's Information Service, SHISH, Visho Ajazi, on Wednesday told the parliamentary commission on security that a mysterious device that had entered in the country for police training purposes could pose a risk to national security.

The head of SHISH, the Interior Minister, the General Prosecutor and the General Director of Police were reporting for almost eight hours to the commission about electronic equipment at police headquarters, which the opposition and President say is being used for wiretapping.

Visho said that he was informed that two months ago a device for training reasons had entered Albania, without the General Prosecutor's office, the institution in charge for communications interception, being informed.

"We were concerned that the device would be used in an illegal way and I reported this information to the General Prosecutor. If this device enters Albania, the General Prosecutor has to give its permission...

"This device could be a risk for national security if it has the capacity to intercept communications. Then all the heads of the state could be vulnerable to wiretapping," he said.

Though the head of SHISH said that he had no further information about whether the device had been used for wiretapping during these months, and that was a question to be answered by the prosecutor.

The General Prosecutor, Adriatic Llalla, told MPs that on May 13 they opened an investigation into the case after receiving verbal information from the secret service.

"We have a duty to open an investigation, even more so when there are doubts about the violation of national security," he said.

Llalla said the undergoing investigation, that is expected to end soon, will conclude whether the device was used in a legal manner or not.

Testifying also before the commission, the Interior Minister, Samir Tahiri, repeated that the device entered Albania under an agreement with Italian police forces who were using it to teach their Albanian counterpart new techniques in hunting criminals.

"This device did not enter illegally... and it doesn't offer the opportunity to intercept communications,” he maintained.

The same point was emphasized during the questioning of the General Police Director, Haki Cako, who assured MPs that "there is not and never has been a device for communications interceptions in the state police".

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Athens Reacts to Western Thrace “Identity” Conference in Turkey


By Philip Chrysopoulos -  May 15, 2016

Greek Reporter

παρέλασηGreece’s Foreign Ministry has reacted to a conference held in Turkey titled “The Turkish identity of Muslims in Western Thrace” as it creates tension among Greek Muslims.

The Muslim population in the Rodopi region in Western Thrace is recognized in Greece as a religious minority. Ankara, on the other hand, claims it is an ethnically Turkish minority and quite often tries to exploit the Greek Muslims for political purposes.

”Greece follows a policy of equality that pertains to all Greek citizens, regardless of religious identity, and secures the prosperity and dignity and rights of all,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Efstratios Efthymiou on Saturday.

According to reports, Turkish media carried stories identifying Greece’s Muslim minority as ethnic Turks stranded in “Europe’s poorest region.” In the past there have been reports claiming that the ”Turkish minorities” feel oppressed in Greece.

- See more at:

Greek - Turkish relations: Ankara speaks out on Greece's Turkish minority

Foreign Ministry says Western Thrace minority expect rights, citizenship issues to be resolved


Ankara speaks out on Greece's Turkish minority
related news

A senior Turkish official on Wednesday said issues over the ethnic-Turkish population in northeastern Greece were emerging as “basic expectations” of the minority community there.

Spokesman for Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, Tanju Bilgic, said Turkish minority in the Western Thrace region wanted the implementation of regulations and practices “that allow the minority to enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms”.

Last week, Greek daily Ekathimerini reported that Athens had slammed a conference held in a Turkish university earlier this month on ‘The Turkish identity of Muslims in Western Thrace’. The newspaper wrote that the Athens saw the meeting as stoking tension and uncertainty among Greek Muslims.

Greece recognizes its minority population living in Western Thrace as a religious one – Muslim – rather than ethnic – Turkish.

Athens’ Foreign Ministry spokesman, Efstratios Efthymiou, was quoted in Ekathimerini’s Saturday report as saying: “Greece follows a policy of equality that pertains to all Greek citizens, regardless of religious identity, and secures the prosperity and dignity and rights of all.”

However, Bilgic said on Wednesday that the current situation of the Turkish minority in Western Thrace stands “at a very distant point” from the optimistic outlook reflected in the Greek authorities’ statements.

Bilgic called on Greece to “respect ethnic minority identity” and implement European Court of Human Rights verdicts against banning local NGOs using the descriptor ‘Turkish’ in their titles. He said that Greece has not yet implemented the court's verdict, despite eight years having passed.

Bilgic also called on Greece to “meet the demands to open minority schools”, “recognize minority-elected muftis”, and re-grant citizenship to ethnic Turks.

Some members of the local minority were deprived of Greek citizenship because of Article 19 of Greece’s 1955 Citizenship Law.

The article stated that a “person of non-Greek ethnic origin leaving Greece without the intention of returning may be declared as having lost Greek citizenship”.

This was abolished in 1998 but, despite this, the Greek government promised to grant citizenship to all those made stateless, a process which has yet to be concluded.

Bilgic said that implementing regulations which provide fundamental rights and freedoms to the ethnic-Turkish minority would have a “positive effect in our bilateral relations”.

Belgrade: "Demarcation talk absurd, there's no border with Kosovo


It is "absurd and nonsensical" to talk about a demarcation between Serbia and Kosovo considering there is no border, "nor will there ever be one for us."
Source: B92
Marko Djuric (Tanjug, file)
Marko Djuric (Tanjug, file)
Marko Djuric, director of the Serbian government's Office for Kosovo and Metohija, said this in an interview for B92 TV on Tuesday, and added that as far as Belgrade is concerned, "there can only possibly be conversations that help people circulate and not wait in lines."
"Pristina is stopping vehicles, creating queues in order to prove their statehood. That is an administrative line (between Kosovo and central Serbia) and that is all we can talk about," Djuric said.

He stressed that "this government received a difficult inheritance" when to comes to Kosovo, "and has been making an effort all the time to alleviate what has been left to it, including the transfer of the dialogue from the UN to the EU."

Asked whether this means New York is the right place for Serbia to present its positions on Kosovo, Djuric replied that "the entire world public learns about the real situation only in that way."

"The position of Kosovo and Metohija is based on Resolution 1244 of the UN (SC) and therefore New York is the place to talk about it, and the place from which we inform the world about the problems in Kosovo," said the official.

He stressed that Belgrade considers announcements about a change of format in the negotiations with Pristina "unacceptable," and that Serbia "expects more from the international community."

"If we agreed to solve everything at the table, then someone can't be pushing Kosovo to UNESCO, to international organizations behind the back, while we pretend not to see it. The talks have never been easy, we will speak with legitimately elected representatives of (ethnic) Albanians, but it's important for us that what has been agreed starts to be implemented," Djuric said.

Serbia is also ready to talk about "the future of the dialogue," he stressed, and said that "trust in the interlocutors has been shaken":

"They have not shown readiness to implement anything. All they do is use the opportunity to exaggerate nationalist rhetoric."

According to Djuric, "international factors, too, must prove their credibility in this situation."

"They must ask that what has been agreed is implemented. The Community of Serb Municipalities must be formed in line with that - we are neither interested, nor obligated by any decision of the constitutional court in the province. Both we and Pristina are obligated by the signed agreements, everything else is cheap tricks," Djuric said.

Asked "how Serbia went from the Brussels 5-0 to 0-2 and Kosovo's membership in UEFA and FIFA," this official advised against talking about the August negotiations "in a cynical manner."

"This is something else, this was never a part of the negotiations, here international law in violated, UEFA's and FIFA's statutes as well," he said, adding that both the state and the Serbian Football Association (FSS) would "continue to fight against it."

Russia, Serbia Sign Military Cooperation Plan for 2016

Serbian soldiers parachute from a transport helicopter with Russian, left and Serbian flags during the Russian-Serbian joint antiterrorist exercise. (File)

© AP Photo/ Darko Vojinovic
Military & Intelligence

Russia and Serbia signed a plan on Tuesday that sets out agenda for military cooperation between the two partners throughout 2016, the Balkan nation’s Defense Ministry said.

BELGRADE (Sputnik) — The bilateral deal was inked in Belgrade by Serbian Ministry’s international cooperation chief Milan Konjikovac and Russia’s military attache in Serbia Andrei Kindyakov.
"Navy Captain Milan Konjikovac thanked Russia for its support in defending Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty," the statement read.

The roadmap set a timeline for high-ranking visits, including an upcoming trip by the Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, Ljubisa Dikovic, to Russia.
According to the ministerial statement, Serbia’s senior defense official emphasized his country’s commitment to preserving its non-aligned status and cooperating with all partners based on mutual respect.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bishop of Konitsa, Andreas: Let the history and the Autonomy of the North Epirus, we seek union with Greece

On the 102 anniversary of the Corfu Protocol, the Bishop of Pogoni Delvinaki and Konitsa, Andreas, for the first time declared the Union of Northern Epirus with Greece, (former Autonomous territory of the Greeks in Northern Epirus in 1914).

The statement has surprised not only the guests, but also journalists and politicians who were present at the ceremony commemorating the decision of the Great Powers in May 17, 1914, to the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus.

"Albania, apparently, not only do not respect freedoms and human rights and the Greeks, their church and the autonomy granted by the Big Powers, but every day is robbed properties, demolish houses and the Orthodox Church that belong to community of the Greeks in North Epirin "said Bishop Andreas, one of the collaborators of the former Bishop of Pogonis and Konitsas Sebastianos.

But the statement for Union with Greece, to the Greeks living in the territory of Northern Epirus,, is an important step geopolitical, for which the Greek Orthodox Church, presents Greek politicians, national issues of the country.

#PanamaPapers: Billionaire George Soros Linked to Offshore Arms Trade

George Soros

© Flickr/ Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

The so-called Panama Papers contain links to US billionaire George Soros, who established a number of offshore investment partnerships, including a private equity partnership with US Carlyle Group engaged in investment in arms manufacturers using offshore business, US media reported, citing leaked documents.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — On May 9, the International Consortium of Independent Journalists (ICIJ) published a new portion of documents on 320,000 offshore accounts that were leaked from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.
According to the Fox News broadcaster, the ICIJ did not mention Soros’ companies in the offshore leaks database except for just one investment group, the Quantum Group of Funds, which does not generate particular interest as an offshore company.
A special information request made by the channel revealed that Soros Capital established an offshore firm in the Cayman Islands in order to set a a private equity partnership with the Carlyle Group, an US asset management and financial services corporation specializing in buying and selling companies producing weapons and gathering intelligence data. The Carlyle Group was also allegedly connected with members of Saudi Arabia’s bin Laden family, according to Fahrenheit 911 documentary film, and maintained ties with secret offshore firms to make its business.
In April, the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung exposed the alleged involvement of the world's wealthy and influential people including a number of former and current leaders, in offshore schemes by publishing materials it claimed came from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama firm selling offshore companies.
Mossack Fonseca responded to the April report by refusing to validate the information contained in the leaks and accused reporters of gaining unauthorized access to some of its proprietary documents.

Northern Epirus program in new Politic Party in Greece

Failos Kradiniotis Ex-aide to former PM Antonis Samaras, forms far-right party

TAGS: Politics

Failos Kranidiotis, a lawyer and former aide to ex-prime minister Antonis Samaras, launched a political party called New Right Friday, aimed at drawing voters from the hard right of the political spectrum.

Kranidiotis launched the new party a few weeks after he was ousted from conservative New Democracy by leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis over controversial online comments he posted in response to a diplomatic faux pas by Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas.
Την διακήρυξη της «Νέας Δεξιάς» παρουσίασε ο Φαήλος
New Right is the second hard-right party to be launched in the past few weeks, following the announcement of National Unity, formed by former nationalist LAOS chief Giorgos Karatzaferis and ex-Samaras cabinet secretary Panayiotis Baltakos.

According to the politic strategy lanced by Kradiniotis yesterday, the "New Right Party" has in program Northern Epirus and Pontus issues, as priority of the National Issue of Greece.

Turkish 'power struggle' affecting Greece, says Kotzias

Kathimerini: Diplomacy, Defense

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias has blamed rising tension in the Aegean on the once all-powerful Turkish army, saying that its renewed influence is affecting developments within and outside the neighboring country.

“Turkey is experiencing a tough power struggle,” Kotzias said in an interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, adding that the departure of prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, forced into resigning earlier this month, would have an impact on EU-Turkey ties.

“Also important however is the strengthening of the role of the armed forces, both at home, to deal with the Gulen movement and the Kurds, as well as abroad [in response to developments in] Iraq and Syria,” he said.

“Points of friction have arisen with nearly all of its neighbors… Turkey is today more tense than in the past,” Kotzias said, describing Athens’s stance as “sober and composed.”

“Greece must remain vigilant so it does not become part of the problem, something that certain circles in the neighboring country would hope for,” he said.

Despite a recent spate of airspace violations in the Aegean by Turkish fighter jets, Kotzias said that no serious incident had occurred during Erdogan’s rule. “However, if one is not careful, a serious incident could occur, even by error,” the minister said, adding that although Athens is keeping NATO and the European Union updated on Ankara’s provocations, Greece was “determined to defend its sovereign rights and territorial integrity.”

In the same interview, Kotzias advocated the need for an updated European security architecture that would incorporate Russia.

“Despite the many problems dogging relations between the West and Russia, we need to find ways to talk and communicate,” the minister said.

“It is no coincidence that even the US is discussing with Moscow a series of fundamental problems facing the world today.

Monday, May 16, 2016

RS opposition and authorities reach "resignation impasse"

Aleksandra Pandurevic from the SDS party has said that its members will withdraw from Bosnia-Herzegovina institutions "if Milorad Dodik resigns."
Source: Tanjug
Pandurevic is a deputy in the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The SDS is an opposition party in the Serb entity, the RS.
She on Monday called on RS President Milorad Dodik to resign, and dissolve the RS National Assembly before SDS members withdraw from institutions and in that way force elections at the level of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Her statement came after Dodik - responding to opposition demands to call early parliamentary and presidential elections in the entity - said he would do so "after representatives of the RS opposition resign from their positions in Bosnia-Herzegovina institutions."

Earlier in the day, Dodik described Saturday's rallies in Banja Luka organized by both opposition and ruling parties as "peaceful," but noted that "divisions remain" in the Serb entity.

PROTO THEMA: Αλβανία: Κραυγή αγωνίας από την ελληνική μειονότητα - «Κλέβουν τη γη μας»

Έχει αλλάξει ήδη παράνομα η κυριότητα σε 220.000 στρέμματα


Καταγγέλλουν «ιδιοκτησιακή γενοκτονία» - Αλβανοί με αμφιβόλου γνησιότητας χαρτιά εμφανίζονται ως δήθεν ιδιοκτήτες - Τα δικαστήρια επωφελούνται από το γενικό κλίμα διαφθοράς και τάσσονται προκλητικά υπέρ των καταπατητώνΣτην αλβανική Δικαιοσύνη έχουν προσφύγει δήμοι και κοινότητες της εθνικής ελληνικής μειονότητας στην Αλβανία, υποστηρίζοντας ότι έχουν πέσει θύματα μίας «μεθοδευμένης υφαρπαγής» δεκάδων χιλιάδων στρεμμάτων λιβαδιών, δασών και καλλιεργήσιμης γης που τους ανήκει δικαιωματικά.

Όπως καταγγέλλουν, Αλβανοί με με αμφιβόλου γνησιότητας χαρτιά εμφανίζονται ως δήθεν ιδιοκτήτες και επιχειρούν να πάρουν την γη τους.

Σύμφωνα με πηγές των μειονοτικών δήμων της Φοινίκης και Δρόπολης, στους νομούς Αγίων Σαράντα, Δελβίνου και Αργυροκάστρου, έχει αλλάξει ήδη παρανόμως η κυριότητα επί της γης σε περισσότερες από 220.000 στρέμματα, που ανήκαν σε περιοχές με αμιγή ελληνικό μειονοτικό πληθυσμό.

Η διαδικασία υφαρπαγής, που περιλαμβάνει με πλαστά έγγραφα, «στημένες» δικαστικές αποφάσεις και εξόφθαλμες παραβιάσεις του νόμου, βρίσκεται σε εξέλιξη τα τελευταία 15 με 20 χρόνια, αναφέρουν οι ίδιες πηγές.

Χαρακτηριστικά, σύμφωνα με το, το Κόμμα Ένωση Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων, που αντιπροσωπεύει την ελληνική μειονότητα στην Αλβανία, κατηγόρησε την αλβανική κυβέρνηση πως διαπράττει «ιδιοκτησιακή γενοκτονία» στα χωριά της Χιμάρας Βουνό και Δρυμάδες, με αφορμή τις κατεδαφίσεις σπιτιών και επιχειρήσεων και την αφαίρεση τίτλων ιδιοκτησίας από ελληνικές οικογένειες.

Οι δυνάμεις της πολεοδομικής αστυνομίας (IKMT) και του αλβανικού στρατού, μέχρι στιγμής, έχουν κατεδαφίσει 25 κτίρια και κατασκευές στα χωριά Δρυμάδες και Βουνό, δηλώνοντας ότι αυτό αποτελεί μέρος του σχεδίου ανάπτυξης της περιοχής της Χειμάρρας που εφαρμόζει η αλβανική κυβέρνηση.

Σύμφωνα με δημοσιεύσεις στην επίσημη ιστοσελίδα του Αλβανικού Ταμείου Ανάπτυξης (FSHZH), που διαχειρίζεται και επιβλέπει τα κονδύλια, το σχέδιο προβλέπει την εκτέλεση έργων και μελετών που προσβλέπουν στην ανάπτυξη της περιοχής της Χειμάρρας. Αλλά, όπως καταγγέλλει η οργάνωση «Κοινότητα Χειμαρριωτών» και από τις αρνητικές εξελίξεις με τις κατεδαφίσεις κτισμάτων που ανήκουν σε ελληνικές οικογένειες, το όλο σχέδιο χρησιμοποιείται για την εφαρμογή της ιδιοκτησιακής γενοκτονίας του πληθυσμού της περιοχής της Χειμάρρας.

Οι επιχειρήσεις κατεδαφίσεων κτιρίων στα χωριά αυτά συνεχίζονται μέχρι και σήμερα και αναμένεται να επεκταθούν και στην παλαιά Χειμάρρα, με απώτερο σκοπό την κατεδάφιση κτιρίων και επιχειρήσεων που έχουν κτιστεί στα χωριά αυτά μετά το 1991.

Οι μηνυτήριες αναφορές των ομογενών αναφέρουν ότι οι Αλβανοί προβάλλουν τις αξιώσεις τους στηριζόμενοι σε δήθεν τίτλους ιδιοκτησίας από την οθωμανική αυτοκρατορία και σε έγγραφα εμφανώς πλαστογραφημένα κατά πανομοιότυπο σχεδόν τρόπο.

Δεκάδες τέτοιες δίκες βρίσκονται σε εξέλιξη, πολλές από τις οποίες παρακολουθεί η ελληνική διπλωματική αντιπροσωπεία στο Αργυρόκαστρο.

Όπως φαίνεται, όμως, οι Έλληνες της Αλβανίας δεν μπορούν να βρουν το δίκιο τους ούτε καν στα δικαστήρια που, επωφελούμενα από το γενικό κλίμα διαφθοράς που χαρακτηρίζει την αλβανική Δικαιοσύνη, τάσσονται πολλές φορές προκλητικά υπέρ των καταπατητών.

Σε μερικές περιπτώσεις, δε, τα πράγματα βγαίνουν ακόμα εκτός ελέγχου. Σε διάφορες περιοχές στη Λιβαδειά, στην Κουλουρίτσα, νομού Αγίων Σαράντα, στο Κώσταρι του νομού Δελβίνου, στο Ραντάτι Αργυροκάστρου και αλλού, οι καταπατητές εκτάσεων προέβησαν και σε πράξεις βίας εναντίον ομογενών. Όπως έλεγαν κάποιοι εξ αυτών αξίωναν από τους μειονοτικούς να εγκαταλείψουν και τα σπίτια τους, επειδή, κατά τους ισχυρισμούς τους, τα έχουν κτίσει στις «περιουσίες» τους.

Στο Κώσταρι του Δελβίνου άτομα αλβανικής καταγωγής, περιέφραξαν δια της βίας περισσότερα από 120 εκτάρια γης, ιδιοκτησία της κοινότητας, και απειλούν τους κατοίκους της να παραιτηθούν από το αίτημά τους για την αποκατάσταση της νομιμότητας.

Albania ‘Ignoring’ Suspected Drug Baron’s Greek Arrest Warrant

Greek police documents seen by BIRN shows that Athens suspects an Albanian official and prominent businessman of heading a major drugs trafficking ring – however, Albanian police have yet to arrest him.
Gjergj Erebara
Some of the drugs seized in Greece. Photo: Greek Police

An Albanian businessman who until last week, also held a directorial post in the regional administration, has had a Greek arrest warrant under his name since Monday May 9.

Klemend Balili, an Albanian businessman and director of Transport Services in the Region of Saranda, part of the Ministry of Transport, is suspected in Greece of financing a drug trafficking ring that has exported marijuana from Albania to several Western countries.

Greek police carried a massive anti-drug operation during the last few days, arresting a dozen people and confiscating about 687 kilos of marijuana that was found hidden on an islet off the coast of northern Greece.

According to the scheme discovered by Greek police, traffickers used speedboats to transport marijuana from Albania to Greece and then created bogus transport companies to send it by road to other European countries.

They suspect Balili was heading the gang.

Since the news broke on Wednesday in the Greek media, Albania’s opposition centre-right Democratic Party has highlighted Balili’s political connections and accused the Minister of Interior, Sajmir Tahiri, of protecting the alleged kingpin. Tahiri has denied the allegations.

Greek media reports also complain of a lack of collaboration and inactivity on the part of the Albanian police in the case.

They have also noted the suspect’s political connections in Albania. Greek CNN reported on a meeting between Greek and Albanian police at which an Albanian officer told Greek colleagues that they were unable to carry out an arrest “because of [the suspect’s] very high level political protection”.

Greek police have not identified the suspect by name in their press releases, however, noting only “a 44-year-old suspect”, causing uncertainty about whether they actually mean Balili, named in the Albanian Civil Registry as Kelmend Balili, not Klemend Balili.

Balili has denied the allegations in a quote in, a news website based in Tirana, claiming they are politically motivated.

Albanian police, meanwhile, have declined to confirm whether Balili was under an arrest warrant and have not arrested him. Officially, the police say only that an “operation is ongoing and due to that, [we] cannot provide more details”.

Documents seen by BIRN show that Balili has been under an arrest warrant in Greece since Monday, May 9.
Map of the route used to transport drugs from Albania to Greece. Photo: Greek Police     

“Accused under the law N433/13 “Narcotics” and Article 187 of the Penal Code about Organized Crime and the Article 8 of the Penal Code “Crimes Committed in a Neighboring Country”, accused but nor arrested are three persons, among whom, Klemend Balili [son} of Sabaudin and Naze, born on 20/03/72 in Albania and resident in Saranda”, the Greek police document reads.

Family with political connections:

The Balili family has multiple political connections. The mayor of Delvina, a small town near Saranda, Rigels Balili, is a nephew of the suspect, for example.

Rigels Balili won election last year after gaining 72 per cent of the local vote under the nomination of the Socialist Movement for Integration, the Socialist-led government’s junior coalition partner.

Klemend Balili’s own political connections were also highlighted in a 2015 news report from Ora News, an Albanian television station.

This showed the speaker of parliament, Ilir Meta, head of the Socialist Movement of Integration, along with the Minister of Finance, Arben Ahmetaj,  and Koco Kokëdhima, an important MP from the Socialist Party, cutting the ribbon in an inaugural ceremony for a luxury hotel built by Balili family in the coastal town of Saranda.

During the ceremony, the multimillion-euro investment was hailed as a model example of tourist development.

Following reports of the Greek arrest warrant, a local news website from Saranda questioned the timing of the operation, suggesting a possible Greek plot to damage local tourism and lamenting extensive media coverage of the issue.

In the meantime, Koco Kokedhima, the socialist party former MP that appears in the inaugural ceremony, later stated in a Facebook posts that attempts to link Balili family with his name were purely a smear campaign. “Balili’s were never supporters of the Socialist Party,” Kokedhima said. “Before 2013 [general elections] they were known supporters of the Democratic Party and turned over to the Socialist Movement of Integration after,” Kokedhima claimed.

“Worth hundreds of millions”

Greek police say their investigation into the drugs ring started about two years ago when large quantities of drugs were seized that evidently belonged to the same trafficking ring.

In the first arrest, on January 25, 2014, in the town of Patra, they arrested a Bulgarian citizen and confiscated 451 kilos of cannabis.

In April 2015, they seized about 678 kilos of cannabis on the border with Macedonia. Also in April 2015, police in Bulgaria seized 531 kilos of cannabis.

Greek police closed in last Sunday and arrested five suspected members of the group on the island of Zakinthos in northern Greece and seized another 678 kilos of cannabis hidden in an islet nearby. In Patra, they arrested two more members of the group and confiscated a speedboat.

Meanwhile, Albanians wonder why Balili is still free.

NATO Anti-Radicalism Center to Open in Albania

New organization should help counter foreign fighters emanating from the Balkans, though countries say they have already stemmed the flow abroad.
16 May 2016
Albania Defense Minister Mimi Kodheli (pictured) revealed on 13 May that NATO would launch a new training center to fight radicalization in the capital city of Tirana, The Associated Press reports.
Kodheli said that all 28 NATO member states had recently approved the proposal for the center, which would concentrate on preventing radicalization of local citizens, which has been an urgent problem in some Balkan countries.

People from the NATO member and partner countries will be trained to "understand the causes and reasons of radicalization of the citizens" and to design prevention strategies, AP quoted Kodheli as saying.

No timetable for opening the center was provided.

Though Muslim-majority Albania and Kosovo say they have succeeded in stalling the departure of their citizens to join terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, ISIS recruitment in the Balkans is an on-going problem.

In Albania, 24 citizens from three villages in the southeast of the country have left to join terrorists in the Middle East over the past three years, Balkan Insight reports. So far, four of them have reportedly been killed.

On 13 April, Kosovar Samet Imishti was sentenced to seven months jail for spreading ISIS propaganda on Facebook. Imishti was the first Kosovar citizen to be given s sentence for propaganda on behalf of s terrorist organization.

According to Bosnia’s anti-terrorism group, an estimated 124 Bosnians are involved in foreign wars – four fighting in Ukraine and the others for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Some already want to return home, and negotiations are underway to facilitate the process, evidently with lighter sentences offered to those who provide intelligence.

A report on the B92 website also cites "a dozen to several dozen" Montenegrin citizens fighting alongside ISIS. As just one example, B92 mentioned a former Muslim cleric from Montenegro who was reportedly killed fighting in the ranks of ISIS in Syria.

According to Defense Minister Kodheli, the time now is "when the phenomenon of the foreign terrorist fighters has reached considerable levels," AP reports.

  • Tirana will host the NATO Parliamentary Assembly later in the month."Albania as a NATO member country has the honor to host the Parliamentary Assembly, which will discuss the toughest challenges that our Alliance has to cope with in the near and distant future," Business Standard quoted the chairman of the Albanian delegation to the interparliamentary organ of NATO, Pandeli Majko, as saying.

  • In another sign of good relations with NATO, Albanian President Bujar Nishani visited the alliance’s headquarters at the end of April to discuss preparations for the upcoming Warsaw summit. A NATO press release noted that Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had “praised Albania for its contributions to Allied security and for its role in strengthening stability in the Western Balkans.”

  • Albania became s full member of NATO in 2009.
Compiled by Katerina Glacnerova

Albania: The dark shadow of tradition and blood feuds

An ancient code of retaliation is forcing generations of Albanians into their own private prisons.

Seventy-year-old Kol Shllaku sits in his prison cell in Kruje. He has already served nine years and must serve another 13 for participating in a blood feud [Carlo Gianferro/Al Jazeera]


Vincenzo Mattei

Story highlights

The Kanun is an Albanian code of behaviour that has been passed down for centuries
Comprised of 12 books and 1,262 articles, the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini was passed down orally
It is for its authorisation of retaliation killings that it has become most notorious
Once it sought to regulate blood feuds, but these aspects have been eroded, with the notion of vengeance overriding all others
It can be trigged by something as trivial as a dispute between neighbours or a disagreement among family; an incident that, anywhere else, might be forgotten with the passage of time or left to the authorities to resolve.
But in northern and central Albania, where an ancient code of conduct known as the kanun still regulates life for a large portion of the population, it can descend into a blood feud spanning generations and forcing entire families into confinement.

Comprised of 12 books and 1,262 articles, the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, who is thought to have been a 15th-century Albanian nobleman about whom little else is known, was passed down orally for centuries and only put into print in the early 20th century.

First the Ottomans and then Albania's communist dictator Enver Hoxha sought to outlaw it. But it continued to run parallel to state rule, governing everything from the economic organisation of households to notions of honour.
However, it is for its authorisation of retaliation killings that it has become most notorious, particularly since enjoying a revival in the years following the fall of communism. Where once it sought to regulate such blood feuds - imposing limitations on who could be killed (no women or children under the age of 16) - these aspects of the code have gradually been eroded, with the notion of vengeance overriding all others.

'It's like being dead'

Basmir Gjeloshaj lost his father and two uncles to a blood feud. Apart from a year or so when he was living in Sweden, he has been confined to his home since he was six years old [Carlo Gianferro/Al Jazeera]
Basmir Gjeloshaj lost his father and two uncles to a feud in which two members of an opposing family were also killed.
He was just six years old when his father's life was claimed in 2001 and has seldom left his home since. The gjakmarrja, or blood feud, weighs heavily on Basmir and his family. He was only able to study until the fifth grade, and that was only through the assistance of a teacher who would come to his house to teach him. 
His younger sister, Drenica, was a little luckier. She was able to leave the house to attend school. But then, one day when she was in the fifth grade, a car sped up behind her and offered her money to get in. Fearing it was part of an attempt to kill her, she too retreated inside.
Like many Albanians in their position, the Gjeloshaj family hoped that they might be able to outrun the feud - by fleeing the country and starting anew somewhere far away. And when, in 2012, Sweden accepted their claim for asylum, it looked as though they would finally succeed.
But their new lives were short-lived. In December 2013, the Swedish government expelled them on the basis that their expatriation papers, supplied by Albania's Committee of National Reconciliation, a body set up to counter the kanun, were counterfeit.

"When I was in Sweden, I used to go to school, talk with the other students and make friends," explains Drenica. "I did not go out that much, but felt freer."

Basmir was also able to study in Sweden and had aspirations of becoming a mechanic, getting married and starting a family.
Now back in Albania, the 19-year-old spends most of his day laying on a bed that is too small for his more than six-foot frame. It is, his mother, File, says, "like being dead once again".
'The wound is still bleeding'
Fifty-year-old Mhili Zefi has two blood feuds hanging over him. The first he inherited from his father 20 years ago. The second began in 2009 [Carlo Gianferro/Al Jazeera] 
Fifty-year-old Mhili Zefi lives in isolation in his decaying home in the Shkoder suburbs. His house faces a disused railway and is so cold that his breath forms small clouds in the air.
Pictures of his daughter's wedding and images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary serve as the sole form of decoration for its bare walls. Mhili inherited a feud from his father 20 years ago. That is close to being resolved thanks to rulings imposed by a council of elders and the intervention of a peacemaker, Nik Zefi. Sixty years ago, when Nik was just 15, a blood feud forced him inside for 10 years.
It is that experience that has inspired him to help others in a similar position. But even once Mhili's inherited 20-year feud comes to an end, he may not be able to leave his home.

In 2009, what he describes as a "quarrel" with another family led him to accrue a further "blood debt". He doesn't explain the details but says: "The wound is still bleeding for the other family. My children know they have to keep an eye when walking around in the streets. I've got three brothers behind bars and must help their families, though I don't know by what means."

For now, that burden falls upon Mhili's wife, who works two shifts a day in order to keep all four families afloat. Her husband lives in hiding - allowed out only for an hour every now and again as a result of an agreement with the injured party that grants him temporary freedom. And even if he did have the freedom to move about, nobody would hire a man with a gjakmarrja sentence hanging over him.

'I'd kill myself right now'

Gjion Mhili’s brother shot and killed a neighbour in a dispute over land. Ever since, Gjion has been unable to leave his home for fear of being targeted in a retaliation killing. His three children - aged 15, 12 and seven - must also stay inside [Carlo Gianferro/Al Jazeera]
Gjion Mhilli is also paying for a crime he did not commit. He will forever remember the date of September 19, 1992, as the day his brother shot and killed a neighbour in a dispute over land.
On the few occasions that Gjion has ventured outside since, he has been threatened or chased, often having to hide in the store rooms of sympathetic shopkeepers.

His wife, Valentina, married him at a time when most other Albanian women would have refused. "My family disagreed and put pressure on me to give up," she explains. "But I love him and do not regret [marrying him]. Of course, our children are confined at some relatives of ours, but we keep going."

Of their three children, only 15-year-old David is able to read and write. Twelve-year-old Yussef has never been to school, and although illiterate, he can speak English perfectly. At just seven, Gjonna understands little of why her family lives as it does.

Gjion's fingers are stained yellow from chain smoking and the television, his only company during the day, is permanently on. "Should I be sure my children would be spared, I'd kill myself right now," he says, shaking his head.

As such blood feuds engulf different generations of the same family, they create, according to Milva Ekonomi, Albania's deputy minister for health, "a deeper generational gap … as children have access to social networks and suffer more, while their parents are completely cut off from society and from virtual reality".

Even though children are theoretically off-limits for retaliation killings, family homes often become prisons for children whose destinies have seemingly been written by the actions of others. "Women and children are not to be shot," explains Luigj Mila, the chairman of the Law and Peace Committee. "But parents are afraid and lock them away."

'I don't know how I would react'

Maria Chosaj and her husband. Seventy-year-old Maria says she is not looking for revenge for the death of her son but neither has she accepted an offer of peace from the family of his killer. As a result, her grandchildren may avenge their father’s murder [Carlo Gianferro/Al Jazeera]
Often, the urge for revenge is nursed in the shadow of an individual's conscience. Thirty-two-year-old Gega Murj, whose older brother was killed by his uncle and cousin, explains: "Should I meet them in the street, I don't know how I would react." His father, Marko, does not want any further bloodshed but fears he will not always be able to control Gega.
Seventy-year-old Maria Chosaj says that her family is not looking for revenge for the murder of her son. Despite this, she has never accepted an offer of peace from the family of her son's killer, and in her refusal to do so, she is bequeathing a heavy burden to her grandchildren.
The eyes of the eldest, Kujtim, are etched with pain over the loss of his father.

But reconciliation is possible and, when it happens, often takes place at Shkoder's Catholic cathedral, where a kiss between opposing sides seals a peace lasting generations. "Should the government let laws be applied and respected, people would not take the law into their own hands, explains Angelo Massafra, the bishop of Shkoder. "The kanun rules call for reconciliation," he adds, criticising its misrepresentation.

In fact, the kanun offers three ways to avenge murder: by paying money to the family of the deceased, by securing the forgiveness of the church or by killing the murderer.

But as Albania transitioned from communism, a frail state and widespread judicial corruption saw more people turn to the kanun and its most extreme interpretations.
The government has responded by increasing the prison sentence for murder to 15 years to life, but well-off murderers who can afford to pay the judge often see their sentences reduced. According to unofficial reports, a little over $6,000 will secure a year's reduction. "Increasing penalties is not enough. We also need 'clean hands' here in Albania in order to reform our corrupted justice system and to make the judge do his job," explains Milva Ekonomi.

'I spared the child'

Eighty-three-year-old Nikoll Marku is serving a prison sentence for killing a neighbour who murdered his son [Carlo Gianferro/Al Jazeera]
Eighty-three-year-old Nikoll Marku has a sunken face and bright blue eyes. He wears a grey busby hat and clothes that are too large for his skinny frame.
Nikoll has spent the past 15 years in prison and must serve 10 more after he avenged the murder of his son, killed by a neighbour over a tree branch that was protruding onto their property. "It was 1997 and anarchy reigned in Albania," explains Nikoll. "The government didn't act and the neighbour did not approach me for reconciliation.
According to the kanun, I should have killed his 16-year-old son, so having him experience pain the way I did. But I spared the child, who saw his father dying before his eyes."

Father Marian Loci is a Catholic priest who works with several of the prisoners. He explains that those who do not avenge the killing of their loved ones often lose respect in their community and suffer exclusion. "In some areas, the tradition of 'coffee under the knee' still exists, [whereby] on feast or wedding days coffee is not served at the table but at the level of the feet for those who did not avenge their killed relative."

The priest shares another story about a friend of his, whose father had been killed. One day when this friend was playing football in the street, he got into a fight with another player over whether or not a goal should have been allowed.

The other player mocked him for being willing to fight over such a thing but not brave enough to avenge his father's murder. In order to avoid becoming a murderer himself, he jumped aboard the first raft heading to Italy.

Meanwhile, those, like the Gjeloshaj family, who stay behind, brick up their windows and build tall walls around their homes, retreating further into their personal prisons as they hope that the cycle of bloodletting will come to an end. 

Gjion Biamishtea accidentally killed a girl and must now stay inside his house in Vraka, near Shkodër, for fear that he death will be avenged by her family [Carlo Gianferro/Al Jazeera]
This article first appeared in the January issue of the Al Jazeera Magazine.
Source: Al Jazeera