U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has used a visit to Albania to thank the government for resettling members of an Iranian opposition group known as the Mujahedin e Khalq, or MEK.
Over the past two years, Albania has taken in about 1,000 members of the MEK and has committed to resettling an additional 2,000, said a senior State Department official. Most lived in U.S.-backed camps in Iraq.
Ahead of Kerry’s Sunday visit to Tirana, the official said Kerry would not talk publicly about the resettlement effort, which remains a sensitive issue.
The U.S. has assisted Albania in its efforts to resettle the MEK, a group that has supported the U.S. in military operations in the Middle East and in its fight against terrorism.
The U.S. assistance includes a donation of $20 million to the U.N. refugee agency to help resettle the MEK, said the State Department official. The U.S. has also provided Albania with security and economic development assistance, to help the country build up its physical capacity to house the refugees.
Support for Albania's justice reforms
Kerry’s visit comes at a time when Albania is trying to adopt judicial reforms, as part of a wider effort to combat corruption. Kerry praised those efforts in his public remarks in Tirana
The country is considering legislation that would bring Albania’s judicial sector more in line with U.S. and European norms. The measure would also create an entity similar to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The U.S. and European Union provided advice to help Albania draft the provision, which would create a special anti-corruption force.
“Your country is moving in the right direction,” said Secretary Kerry during an appearance with Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Kerry added that he was “encouraged” by the judicial reform package under consideration.
“Without the support and advice of the United States, Albania would not have managed to make so much progress in its reforms, said Rama.
The judicial reforms could also benefit Albania in its bid for EU accession.
Kerry traveled to Albania from Germany, where he participated in the Munich Security Conference and an International Syria Support Group meeting.
He received a robust welcome in Albania, that included a column of U.S. and Albanian flags lining the streets along his main routes and onlookers who crowded street corners to catch a glimpse of his passing motorcade.
In addition to meeting with the country’s prime and foreign ministers, he met with opposition leaders and civil society groups.