By Harry Bajraktari
This week, I had the pleasure to introduce the Foreign Minister of Kosova, Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla to one of the upcoming freshmen in US Congress, Ritchie Torres.
Albanians should know more about him as well. Torres won the Democratic primary for the NY15 congressional district and is not facing any serious challenge this November. As the new congressman representing an area that includes Arthur Avenue and the new “Little Albania”, he will sit, if permitted, in the Foreign Affairs Committee and is determined to visit Albania, Kosova, and North Macedonia, in the first six months of his term in Congress.
Foreign Minister Haradinaj-Stublla briefed the upcoming congressman on the current situation in Kosova, the special relationship with the United States, and the process of negotiations with Serbia.
They were joined in the meeting by other members of the Albanian-American community, Rrustem Gecaj, Dr. Sulejman Çelaj, and Lisa Milicaj, the first Albanian-American woman elected to office in New York State. Kosova Ambassador in Washington DC, Vlora Çitaku and a diplomat from Kosova’s Consulate in New York Lulzim Krasniqi also attended the meeting.
Foreign Minister Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla is traveling to Washington DC for an important round of meetings with US high officials and will participate in several events. During her visit in New York, she met also with a number of Albanian-American leaders, including Jim Xhema, NYC Councilman Mark Gjonaj, Vatra etc. She also paid her respects to the memory of the Bytyçi Brothers, three US citizens and Albanian-Americans, who were executed by the Serbian forces in 1999.
“The Albanian-American noble contribution for the liberation and the independence of Kosova will eternally be remembered,” she wrote on Twitter.
I was honored to receive a recognition plaque from the Foreign Minister, for my contribution to the cause of Kosova. An ornament that showcases the story and the cause of the survivors of sexual violence perpetrated by the Serbian soldiers in Kosova.
The use of rape as a weapon of war has been denounced publicly and brought to the attention of US Congress in 2019, though a hearing session in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, with the initiative of our friend Rep. Eliot Engel, Chairman of the Committee. It is a story that should be told to the world.
A similar plaque was given to several other leaders of the community as well as to our new friend, Ritchie Torres.
It was a great introductory meeting that I trust will lead to future collaboration and a great relationship between the Albanian-American community and the new representative of the NY15 district in the US Congress. As Torres said in our meeting, he cannot wait for January to hit the ground running in Washington DC. I have faith in his abilities and dedication, and I wish him the best.
I wish the best also to Foreign Minister, Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla during her first official visit to Washington DC and I commend her determination to strengthen the friendship between our two nations.
Harry Bajraktari is founder and publisher of Illyria newspaper (1991-1998), an Albanian-American community leader, philanthropist and recipient of many awards, including the Honor of the Nation Order by the President of Albania, Kosova’s Presidential Medal for Merits & the White House Presidential Call to Service Award.