Albania, Serbia postpone visit after soccer brawl

AP News
Posted: Oct 19, 2014 1:41 PM
Albania, Serbia postpone visit after soccer brawl

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — A planned visit this week by Albania's prime minister to Serbia, the first in nearly 70 years, has been postponed for next month, authorities said Sunday, after political tensions soared between the two Balkan rivals following a soccer brawl.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and Albanian counterpart Edi Rama spoke on the phone and agreed to meet on Nov. 10 instead of Wednesday, according to a statement issued by the Serbian premier's office.

"The two prime ministers agreed that they must and will not let go of the opportunity to meet and work for regional stability and to turn a new page regarding the political and economic relations between the two countries," the statement added.

Belgrade and Tirana have had strained relations for decades, mostly over the status of the former Serbian province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 following a war. Serbia has refused to acknowledge the split, but both Serbia and Albania must work to improve ties to advance in their efforts to join the European Union.

Last Wednesday's Serbia-Albania European Championship soccer qualifying match was suspended after a drone carrying an Albanian nationalist flag ignited clashes between players and fans, fueling ethnic and political unrest.

Serbia accused Albania of a deliberate provocation, while Albania said its players were insulted and attacked. Several ethnic Albanian businesses in Serbia were attacked by extremists in the wake of the match, in a sign of mounting tensions.