Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Belgrade on Monday that Ankara is trying to help the countries of the Western Balkans move forward and leave their problems behind.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, Erdogan said that Serbia has an important role to play in terms of the stability and well-being of the Balkans, adding that Ankara supports its Euro-Atlantic path.
“What we are talking about are key issues for the Balkans – securing peace and well-being and every that can affect the Balkans positively without any fighting, only peace,” Erdogan said.
According to the Turkish president, the two countries are investing the effort to improve their relations in security, defence, traffic, culture and university cooperation, adding that the nine agreements signed during his visit reinforced those relations. He said that Turkey would open a consulate in the western Serbian town of Novi Pazar which has a large Bosniak population with ties to Turkey. He said that six new factories would be opened as a result of his visit to Serbia.
President Vucic told the media that Ankara was guided by its interests when it decided to recognize Kosovo but thanked Erdogan for saying that every solution of the Kosovo issue agreed by Serbs and Albanians is acceptable for Turkey. “Our interests are still different,” he said.
Vucic said that Erdogan’s visit reflects the level of attention Ankara focuses on the region.
“This has huge importance, especially now that a single spark could create a lot of problems. That is why this visit is important,” he said and added that Belgrade and Ankara are working on a project to bring peace and stability to the Balkans.
“We are working on infrastructure links in the Balkans. We will attend a ceremony to mark the start of construction of the Belgrade-Sarajevo highway… which would dramatically link Bosniaks and Serbs, Serbs and Serbs, Sarajevo and Belgrad…Serbia and the Balkans will be different when we finish this,” he said.
The two presidents will be accompanied by members of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency on Tuesday for a trilateral Turkey-Serbia-Bosnia summit in Belgrade.