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US diplomat tries to mediate compromise in Albanian politics

Posted May 15

— A senior U.S. official on Monday called on Albania's opposition to end its boycott and take part in next month's parliamentary election.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hoyt Brian Yee was in Tirana on Monday to meet with Prime Minister Edi Rama, his ally President-elect Ilir Meta and main opposition leader Lulzim Basha, urging them to reach a compromise ahead of the June 18 parliamentary election.

The opposition has boycotted parliament since February and has refused to register for the June polls. The Democrats claim Rama's Cabinet will manipulate the vote.

"If some parties exclude themselves or are excluded from the elections, this is damaging not only to the country and its institutions, but its image outside, first and foremost I think to Europe," said Yee, according to a transcript of a meeting with young journalists posted on the embassy's Facebook page.

"Boycotts do not work; it is not a winning tactic, and cannot be a strategy," said Yee, who has long experience in Balkan countries.

He reminded Albania's opposition of "our President, Theodore Roosevelt, who said, 'Courageous leaders are the ones in the arena, the ones who stay in the arena, not the ones who sit on the sidelines as spectators or critics.'"

Yee's visit, part of a regional tour, is the latest effort after attempts so far by EU and U.S. representatives to promote dialogue failed.

Basha on Monday repeated to his supporters that "There will be no elections without the opposition."

Yee pointed out that European Union Enlargement Commission Johannes Hahn has said that if there cannot be an agreement, the international community will accept the results of the election on June 18 even if the opposition chooses not to stand, provided the vote is held according to democratic standards. He said the U.S. position is the same.

Asked about Russian influence in the Western Balkans he said that "it is important that we all are vigilant, we are watching very carefully what Russia is doing, and we take steps to protect ourselves."

"Russia as you know has tried to interfere in a number of elections, including ours, to have an effect on how democratic processes take place."

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This story has been corrected to give the U.S. representative's name as Yee, not Jee.

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