Albanian prime minister′s Serbia trip postponed after football incidents | News | DW | 19.10.2014
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Albanian prime minister's Serbia trip postponed after football incidents

A visit by the prime minister of Albania to Serbia has been postponed after nationalist tensions were escalated over a football match brawl. Albania has condemned the burning of one of its flags at another soccer game.

A planned visit this week by Albanian premier Edi Rama was postponed until next month, after a series of incidents that aggravated political tension.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and Rama spoke on Sunday, agreeing that the trip should not take place until November 10.

In a joint statement, both said the violence at the Euro 2016 qualifying match between Serbia and Albania earlier this week was "very unfortunate." Rama's visit, which had been slated for Wednesday, was to have been the first by an Albanian premier to Belgrade in 68 years.

An international football match had to be postponed after a drone carrying an adapted version of the Albanian flag was flown over the pitch at Belgrade's Partizan stadium.

Fußballspiel Belgrad Albanien Serbien Ausschreitungen Drohne

The drone carried a flag depicting a "Greater Albania" including parts of Serbia

The drone, complete with a flag depicting a so-called "Greater Albania," had made a series of passes over the pitch, before a Serbian player grabbed at the nationalist symbol.

That triggered a brawl as Albanian players tried to protect the flag - and Serbia fans invaded the pitch.

'No missed opportunity'

Albania had sent no fans to the game other than a contingent of 45 dignitaries. Serbian officials claimed that Rama's own brother, Olsi Rama, was responsible for flying the drone. He, in turn, denied the allegation.

"There are still clear disagreements on how the incidents have occurred but we cannot and will not miss an opportunity to meet and work on maintaining regional stability," said the prime ministers in their joint statement.

Fußball Albanien Serbien Ausschreitungen Schlägerei Gewalt Drohne Belgrad

Albania's players said they were in no fit psychological state to continue with the match after fans attacked

Blaming the incident on the Albanians, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic on Thursday claimed it showed the country was "not mature enough" to join the European Union.

Red Star fans burn flag

Divisions deepened when an Albanian flag was set alight by Red Star Belgrade fans at a Saturday meeting with their city rivals Partizan Belgrade. Albania later condemned the incident as an act that was "harmful for the future stability of the Balkans" and demanded the perpetrators be brought to justice.

Football matches have proved to be something of a tinderbox in the former Yugoslavia.

A huge fight between Croatian and Serbian fans in 1990 is seen as having played a key role in the run-up to the beginning of the 1991 to 1995 war that led to Croatia gaining independence. The riot, involved Dinamo Zagreb home fans and visiting Red Star supporters and came weeks after a divisive multiple-party election.

rc/jm (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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