BY DAILY SABAH
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday welcomed relief of tension between Serbia and Kosovo, calling for dialogue to solve problems.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Serbian counterpart Alexandar Vucic in Belgrade, Erdoğan said that the positive momentum in Balkans should continue, adding: “Balkans can no longer tolerate adversity.”
Türkiye sees Serbia as a key country for peace and stability in the Balkans, he added.
Touching upon the bilateral ties, Erdoğan said that passport-free travel with Serbia would take bilateral relations to “a new level.”
During Erdoğan’s visit, the second stop on a three-nation Balkan tour, Türkiye and Serbia signed seven agreements in such areas as the economy, industry, and technology, including a protocol allowing mutual passport-free travel for nationals on both sides.
Vucic, for his part, welcomed Turkish investments, saying both countries aim to raise bilateral trade volume to $2.5B.
Serbia counts on Türkiye’s support for the continuation of talks to resolve lingering disputes with Kosovo, the Serbian foreign minister said on Friday.
Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina will “lead to a compromise and a mutually acceptable solution, and contribute to the preservation of regional peace and stability,” Nikola Selakovic said in a statement after meeting his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in the capital Belgrade.
Serbia and Kosovo last month agreed on a new border policy under an EU-facilitated dialogue process.
Tensions were rising in the region over Kosovo’s plans to make it mandatory for everyone, including Serbs living in the north, to have a Kosovo ID card and license plates for cars.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, with most U.N. member states, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Türkiye, recognizing it as a separate autonomous country. Serbia, however, continues to claim Kosovo as its territory.
Another topic Erdoğan mentioned was the war in Ukraine and its impacts on Europe. Erdoğan said he does not find the attitude of the West “right,” adding that they are following a “policy of provocation” toward Russia.
“I can clearly say that I do not find the attitude of the West (towards Russia) right. Because there is a West that follows a policy based on provocation,” Erdoğan said.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine this February, Türkiye has stressed it is following a “balanced” policy that has yielded dividends, such as the historic deal in Istanbul this July unblocking grain exports from Ukraine.
Erdoğan added that it does not seem the Russia-Ukraine war will end “anytime soon,” adding: “I say to those who underestimate Russia, you are doing it wrong. Russia is not a country that can be underestimated.”
The president also reiterated Ankara’s balanced policy between Russia and Ukraine to help solve the crisis.
The Turkish policy of keeping lines of diplomacy open with Russia has also resulted in Türkiye hosting the highest-level meetings of officials from Moscow and Kyiv since the war begin.
Erdoğan was welcomed with an official ceremony in Serbia’s capital Belgrade, on the second leg of his three-nation Balkan tour.
The two leaders held one-on-one talks and inter-delegation meetings, followed by a joint news conference.
During the talks, all aspects of the bilateral relations were reviewed and steps to enhance cooperation in various areas were discussed. Developments in the Balkans and international issues were also on the agenda.
Erdoğan later attended the Türkiye-Serbia Business Forum and visited Belgrade Castle.
Erdoğan on Tuesday started his three-nation Balkan tour with Bosnia-Herzegovina. His last stop will be Croatia on Thursday.
Previously, Erdoğan said Türkiye pays “special importance” to the Balkans and that preserving peace and stability in the region is vital for the country.
The Balkans is a priority for Türkiye not only from the political, economic and geographical perspectives but also due to its historical, cultural and human ties with the region.
In recent years, the Balkans region has become an attractive market for Turkish investors with its qualified workforce, business-friendly investment environment, and tax and financial incentives.
The region is often described as Türkiye’s gateway to the EU, thanks to its geographical location.