Gazheli Offers Credentials to Iranian President amid Diplomatic Tension

On Monday Oct. 31, the newly appointed non-resident ambassador to Iran, Genti Gazheli, offered his credentials to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Gazheli, who is at the same resident ambassador to Turkey and non-resident ambassador to Azerbaijan, has no previous experience in diplomacy, being a former customs officer and former director of the Directorate for the Prevention of Money Laundering. He was nominated to his post in February.

According to the official statement by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President Rouhani stressed the importance of

Developing ties with countries located in the Balkans, including Albania is of chief importance to us and Iran’s friendly and fruitful relations with countries in this region is beneficial to both regions’ nations.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is willing to develop and deepen ties with Albania in economic, cultural, tourism and scientific fields.

Nevertheless, the relations between Iran and Albania have come under tension in recent years, ever since former Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha agreed to offer asylum to members of the Iranian Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), a political-militant group that is considered terrorist organization by the Iranian government, although the EU and US delisted the organization in respectively 2009 and 2012.

According to the Tehran Times, Rouhani recently canceled a trip to Vienna after the Austrian authorities ignored the Iranian request to prohibit a rally of MEK planned to coincide with his trip. The MEK has also been involved in large rallies of the Iranian opposition forces in exile, as recently in New York on Sept. 20.

Iranian main opposition takes part in the "NO 2 Rouhani" demonstration in NY, Sept. 20, 2016. Photo © MEK.
Iranian main opposition takes part in the “NO 2 Rouhani” demonstration in NY, Sept. 20, 2016. Photo © MEK.

Since the Iraq War the Mojahedin-e-Khalq have lived in exile in Iraq, with most of its members resident in Camp Liberty in Baghdad. Prime Minister Edi Rama has honored Berisha’s deal with the US State Department, and 280 militants were transferred to Albania on September 9. The government has so far refused to disclose to precise number of militants that will be resettled in Albania under the terms of the US deal.

According to Voice of America, Albania has already received about 1,000 members of MEK, and a transfer of about 2000 more is expected. The US has donated $20M to the UN refugee agency to assist in the resettlement of the MEK members in Albania.