JERUSALEM (Aug. 19)
Israel and Albania agreed Monday to establish diplomatic relations for the first time.
A hard-line Marxist state when Israel was founded in 1948, Albania did not follow the Soviet Union and other Communist bloc countries in recognizing Israel.
A protocol to establish ties was signed here by Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy and his visiting Albanian counterpart, Muhamet Kapllani.
It was signed as a military coup in the Soviet Union swept President Mikhail Gorbachev from power, bringing a sense of uncertainty and fear to that country as well as Eastern Europe, so recently freed from Communist hegemony.
But Kapllani said, “I believe that the democratic process is something that cannot be stopped in the Soviet Union.”
The two countries plan to exchange ambassadors, although it is unlikely that Israel will open an embassy in Tirana, the Albanian capital. Instead, Israel’s ambassador to neighboring Italy will probably serve as ambassador to Albania.
Albania, Europe’s poorest country, is reeling from years of isolation and tight government control. Thousands of Albanians who tried to flee to Italy were returned there forcibly last week.
Kapllani said the protocol signed with Israel is more than symbolic. It is a step of historic significance, marking “economic, cultural, technical and scientific cooperation,” he said.
Neighboring Yugoslavia is now the only Eastern European country apart from the Soviet Union that has no diplomatic relations with Israel.