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17 March, 1997
Greece will be actively involved in the European Union's first tentative steps to help the Albanian authorities restore order in the anarchic Balkan republic and will continue its own contacts in Albania in an effort to bring an end to the crisis, it was announced yesterday.
As a first step, the EU has decided to send a high-level mission to Tirana today, led by Dutch diplomat Jan de Marchant et d'Ansembourg and including representatives from EU presidency the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, the European Commission and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The aim of the mission is to explore the steps needed to be taken to normalize the situation in Albania.
The European Unions' Council of Foreign Ministers meeting informally over the weekend in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, shied away from sending troops into Albania but said they would send an expert military and police advisory group to try and help restore order.
They said they would consider providing protection for the mission if it was needed, but stressed that it was not a military operation.
"The European Union has decided the dispatch of representatives to Albania with the aim of studying the situation and offering assistance to the Albanian government in its efforts to restore public order and safety," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said in Athens yesterday.
He said Greece would be represented in this mission by ambassador Dimitris Kypraios and Brigadier Ioannis Tsagaris.
Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis will visit Gjirokaster tomorrow, as part of intense diplomatic and political contacts on the part of the Greek government to find a peaceful political solution, Mr. Reppas said.
"Greece will continue to offer humanitarian aid and we believe that soon the crisis will be over and Albanians and Albania will see better days," Mr. Reppas said.
The Albanian crisis and prospects for the achievement of a political solution will be discussed at a meeting to be chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis today.
The meeting will be attended by foreign and defense ministry officials and ministers. In order to attend the meeting, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou's scheduled visit to Sweden has been postponed.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said on Saturday that Greece could participate in an "international police force unit" in Albania, replying to journalists' questions shortly before the opening of the EU foreign ministers informal meeting in Apeldoorn. The OSCE's special envoy for Albania, former Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitzky, supports the sending of a police force to Albania, made up of forces from those European countries which wish to participate.
Source: Athens News Agency