Wikileaks: Negotiations for Greek cemeteries

06/09/2011 08:35

The funds for the illegal construction of the mausoleums for the Greek
soldiers killed in the Albanian territory during the Second World Ware
were given by the Greek government, which has financed the Autocephalous
Orthodox Church of Albania.

The news comes from a Wikileaks cable, to which the “Shqip” newspaper is referred.

The cable of 21 June 2006 reports about the incident created with the illegal exhumations held in Kosine village, Permet.

On that time, a local priest paid some locals for exhuming some bodies. The residents complained after seeing the graves of their predecessors being taken as the ones of the Greek soldiers killed 60 years ago.

According to the Albanian law, an exhumation can be made with a prosecution or court order. There were suspicions that the reason for rushing with the exhumation was related with the fact that in Kelcyre had been constructed a mausoleum, although the Albanian authorities had not given permission for it, and that there was no agreement between Tirana and Athens for resolving this problem.

The Church and official Athens

US Embassy officials in Albania interviewed Father Andon Merdani, director of the Foreign Relations for the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania.

Merdani declared that “despite the lack of a formal agreement, construction of one mausoleum, capable of taking in 630 new gravesites, was completed last year on the grounds of an Orthodox monastery in Permet.  A second similar mausoleum is currently under construction in Korca. Merdani confirmed that the construction of the mausoleums was funded by the Greek government and was carried out under the direction of the Albanian Orthodox church”, as the classified cable shows.

“Merdani confirmed that the construction of the mausoleums was funded by the Greek government and was carried out under the direction of the Albanian Orthodox church.”

Janullatos consulted with Karamanlis

According to this cable, Merdani has declared that the head of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania, the Archbishop Anastasios Janullatos, met the Greek Prime Minister, Karamanlis, in Athens, during a meeting in which was discussed the gravesites matter.

One day after, the church allowed the Albanian police and prosecution to visit the church where the human remains were being held temporarily, for making the scientific expertise.

This way, Janullatos results as a Karamanlis official, with whom you can be consulted before giving the approval that the police and the Albanian prosecution will perform the necessary investigations for a criminal act.

The Greek government made a long declaration a few days later, saying that the exhumations had not been financed by them, and that their consulate service in Albania had not been officially engaged.

Father Merdani said to the Americans that the exhumations were financed by the relatives of the killed soldiers. The declaration of the Greek government did not mention the fact of having financed the mausoleums.

The Foreign Ministry under pressure

Another US cable sheds light on the difficult negotiation process of the Greek request for war cemeteries in the Albanian border, a negotiation that Athens seems to have won through blackmail.

The cable 08TIRANA745 reports the explanations of the Albanian diplomat, Islam Lauka, director of the Directory for Regional Relations.

“The Greek Ambassador has declared to Basha (then Foreign Minister) that if the Albanian government doesn’t agree with the Athens’ conditions for the military cemetery, the Greek Parliament will never ratify the Stabilization and Association Agreement”, the cable says.

“He also told Basha that on the same day that Albania will sign the agreement for the cemetery, the Greek Parliament will ratify the Stabilization and Association Agreement”, the cable continues.

Interior Politics

Lauka also states that the reason why the Greek government insists to construct the cemetery in the line from Permet to Korce, according to his dialogue with the Greek Diplomat, was the inner policy of our southern neighbor.

The nationalist government of Karamanlis was concentrated on this matter for winning political capital. Lauke has told the Greeks that the Albanian government has its own inner problems to consider, such as the Cham case, before signing this agreement.

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