EU, US urge Albania's opposition to keep protests peaceful

A protester gestures during clashes near the Parliament building in Tirana, Monday, May 13, 2019. Anti-government protesters in Albania hurled firebombs and flares at riot officers standing in front of the main government building and national police headquarters Monday, hours after the U.S. and European Union lawmakers called for restraint. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

TIRANA, Albania — The European Union, the United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have called on Albania's opposition to avoid violence in its protests and to hold talks resolve the country's political deadlock.

The center-right Democratic Party-led opposition was staging a protest Saturday, demanding that Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama resign and a transitory Cabinet hold an early election.

The protests, which have been going on since mid-February, have turned violent, with opposition supporters showering police officers with firebombs and police responding with tear gas.

A statement from the EU office in Tirana condemned the violence, urging all sides to hold talks to find "a way out of the current political situation."

The United States embassy in Tirana also urged all sides "to practice restraint, disavow violence and engage in constructive dialogue."

The opposition has declined to talk with Rama unless he resigns. It accuses his Cabinet of corruption and links to organized crime. The governing Socialists deny those claims and say the violent opposition protests are hurting the country's image.

President Ilir Meta also called on the opposition to hold peaceful protests, saying they would "better serve Albania's European future."

In June, Albania expects the EU to grant its request to launch full membership negotiations.

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Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lsemini

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