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03:52, 21 December 2014 Sunday
Update: 08:16, 01 June 2009 Monday

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Albania, Kosovo hail first highway, built by Turkish-US venture
Albania, Kosovo hail first highway, built by Turkish-US venture

The presidents of Albania and Kosovo on Sunday attended a ceremony to mark the completion of the first highway connecting their two territories.

The presidents of Albania and Kosovo on Sunday attended a ceremony to mark the completion of the first highway connecting their two territories.

Completion of a tunnel under a 60 km (37 miles) stretch of road linking the Albanian coastal resort of Durres to the border with Kosovo will slash hours off travelling time for Kosovan holidaymakers heading for the sea.

Inaugurating the tunnel by symbolically meeting halfway in Kalimash, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and his Kosovan counterpart, Hashim Thaci, said: "Tirana and Pristina were closer than ever and would get even closer".

Kosovo consists of a majority of ethnic Albanians who say they were cut off from Albania by the "injustices of history". Their flags stood side by-side in a poster above the tunnel that read "Forever".

Albania began considering building the road when the United Nations and NATO took control of Kosovo in 1999 after ousting the Serb forces of late war crimes suspct Slobodan Milosevic, but it was Berisha who pushed the project forward.

"First, this is the tunnel of the union of the nation. We showed today that there are no mountains, no hurdles that could divide this nation spiritually or physically," he told a cheering flag-waving crowd.

The 60-km section inaugurated on Sunday, including a 5.6 km-long tunnel and 29 bridges, has cost 720 million euros ($1.019 bln). Built by a U.S.-Turkish venture of Bechtel and Enka, it cuts through a rugged and poor region.

When the 160 km road is finally completed next year at a total cost of 1.1 billion euros ($1.557 bln) the trip of around six hours to Kosovo's border from the Albanian capital of Tirana will take just two hours.

In the past, Kosovars have had to face a gruelling eight-hour trip, often via Macedonia, to reach Albania's beaches.

"This road will carry ideas, goods and bring economic growth for our countries as well as our dream for national integration and a future in the EU and NATO," said Thaci.

Trying to assure its neigbours the road was a project of peace for all the Balkans, Berisha invited Balkan states to use the road.

"We inaugurated a tunnel that not only unites the Albanians, but also unites the Albanians with the Macedonians, Serbs and Bulgarians by offering access to Albania's ports," he said.



Agencies


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