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On First Trip to Albania, Blinken Lauds 'Extraordinary Partnership'


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama hold a press conference in Tirana, Albania, Feb. 15, 2024.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama hold a press conference in Tirana, Albania, Feb. 15, 2024.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Albania for the first time on Thursday as part of efforts to "reaffirm the strength of the United States' relations" with the Balkan nation, according to State Department officials.

Remarking upon the "extraordinary partnership" between the countries, Blinken commended Albania for its stance protecting Ukrainian sovereignty and its role as U.N. Security Council Chair in 2023, calling Tirana a "key partner for stability in the Western Balkans and a firm ally in supporting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Following a warm welcome featuring large posters of Blinken's face on buildings, the top U.S. diplomat met with key officials including Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and President Bajram Begaj.

Begaj praised Blinken's leadership, expressing gratitude for the administration's work for "Albania, for Kosovo and in the region." Blinken reciprocated the sentiments, calling the relationship critical to prevailing geopolitical challenges.

Efforts to deepen U.S.-Albanian ties come as Tirana seeks EU integration and an ongoing role within NATO, which the U.S. supports. Later this month, Albania is set to host an international summit on the situation in Ukraine, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to attend.

Blinken also met with young Albanians during a youth forum at the Tirana Pyramid, a onetime monument to former Albanian leader Enver Hoxha, who led the country into isolation, but has since been converted into a hub for education and innovation.

During the event, "Celebrating the Future of the U.S.-Albania Relationship," Blinken thanked the organizers for their stewardship of bilaterial ties and praised Rama's leadership, calling him "both an extraordinary leader and an extraordinary partner."

Blinken's stop in Tirana will be followed by a visit to Munich, where he'll join the U.S. delegation to the Munich Security Conference, led by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Some information for this report came from Agence France-Presse.

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