Iran’s foreign ministry called Albania’s decision to expel its ambassador and a diplomat, the result of “scenarios manufactured” by the United States, Israel and some “terrorist groups”, on Thursday.
Foreign ministry’s spokesman Bahram Ghasemi added that Albania itself is a victim of these efforts.
Albania expelled the Iranian ambassador Gholamhossein Mohammadnia and a diplomat, accusing them of "involvement in activities that harm the country's security" and for "violating their diplomatic status."
Ghasemi told reporters that the incident is the continuation of efforts aimed at “destroying Iran’s relations with Europe in the current sensitive period” and “Iran has always respected the internal laws and regulations this country (Albania), which is part of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy principles”.
Ghasemi also said that since the U.S. was so quick to endorse the expulsion and Albania also confirmed the step was taken in coordination with foreign security agencies, it can be argued that the U.S. and Israel were behind it.
He urged Albania to defend “its independence” and now allow others to influence its relations with Iran “for political reasons”.
President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, wrote on Twitter that Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama “just expelled the Iranian ambassador, signaling to Iran’s leaders that their support for terrorism will not be tolerated.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement described the diplomats as "two Iranian agents who plotted terrorist attacks in Albania."
Private Top Channel television said the Iranians were suspected of links to an alleged plot to attack a World Cup qualifying match in 2016 between Muslim-majority Albania and Israel two years ago in Albania. About 20 people were arrested in Albania and Kosovo following the match.
Albania’s relations with Tehran have been strained since an estimated 2,000 members of the Iranian exile opposition group People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) arrived in the Balkan country in 2013.
Albania took in the members of the group, also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), at the requested of the United States and United Nations after they were forced out of Iraq.
Most of the PMOI member are housed at a large camp near the village of Manze on the Adriatic Sea.