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07 April, 1997
The international community must be prepared to shoulder the cost of helping Balkan and former Soviet bloc states' transition to democracy for the sake of regional stability and security, National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said in an interview published in Saturday's issue of Le Monde.
"Albania is not in a position to assume on its own the cost of the transition (to democracy). If we don't realize that soon, there will be other Albanias," warned Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, adding the view that President Sali Berisha "bore most of the responsibility for the failure" of the democratic process in his country.
None of the states sending troops to participate in the multinational force for Albania want to deploy their men in southern Albania, the stronghold of the insurrection, according to Mr. Tsohatzopoulos.
"We propose that the Greek forces be deployed in the center, around Tirana. However, everyone wants to go there," he said, adding that "no one is in control of the south" of Albania and no one wanted to go there because of the greater risks involved.
According to the minister, the multinational force, whose mission will be to safeguard the distribution of humanitarian aid, will have to confront two "urgent matters".
"(Apart from ensuring delivery of the aid) we will have to gather the arms (looted during the insurrection) and in my view we won't be able to avoid paying for them, buying them back in some way," he said.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, who was in Paris early last week for talks with his French counterpart Charles Millon, reiterated Greece's "political solidarity" to Albania's Prime Minister Bashkim Fino as well as his government's promised economic assistance to the country.
Greece has promised a loan of 20 billion drachmas to the Bank of Albania in order to finance restructuring programs. It has also pledged to participate in the international protection force to be deployed in the country with 600 troops.
Asked if Greece would be willing to cooperate with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in order to avoid a potential regional destabilization, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said Athens had already contacted Skopje as well as its other neighbors "to stress t hat stability in the region depends on cooperation from all of us as well as on EU solidarity."
Asked if the Greek government also counted on cooperation from Turkey, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said Ankara's willingness to participate in the multinational force was received positively but warned that "it should be made clear that the situation in Albania should not be used as pretext for a hegemonic intervention, the kind we have grown accustomed to expect from Ankara."
"The EU should realize," Mr. Tsohatzopoulos stressed, "that Greece is not willing to allow disputing of its sovereignty or of its borders from Turkey."
"At the same time," he added, "we have no objection to Turkey's deepening its ties with the EU, to the extent that it accepts to acknowledge the territorial status quo and find a solution to the Cyprus problem."
Source: Athens News Agency