Erdogan calls for regional stability on day two of Balkan trip

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By Mario Bowden  with AP, EBU
Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) and Aleksander Vucic (left) in Belgrade
Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) and Aleksander Vucic (left) in Belgrade   -   Copyright  Darko Vojinovic/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants an important share of ongoing negotiations to focus on the diplomatic crises in the Western Balkans region. 

Recent problems erupted last month over Serbia's and Kosovo's refusal to recognise each other's identity documents and vehicle licence plates.

Kosovo is a former province of Serbia. In 1998, separatist ethnic Kosovo Albanians rebelled against Serbia's rule, prompting a brutal crackdown. In 1999, NATO bombed Serbia to end the fighting and force Belgrade to pull out of Kosovo.

Calls for calm

Mr Erdogan is in Belgrade as part of a three-day trip to the Balkans. He met his Serbian counterpart Aleksander Vucic and stressed the importance of the Kosovo peace process and the integrity of Bosnia for Turkey.

"When it comes to Kosovo and Serbia, we mentioned that we are ready to provide support in every way. We have seen positive developments and I hope there is a positive and sustainable acceleration because the Balkans cannot tolerate this kind of problem anymore."

Vucic, without mentioning Kosovo, assured Erdogan about Serbia's commitments when it comes to Bosnian stability.

"We talked for a long time about all important issues, about stability in the region. We talked about how important it is to preserve peace and we reiterated our views on the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I added respect for the Dayton Agreement and Republika Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina."

Turkey's invested interests

Turkey has been financing and participating in the construction of a highway linking Belgrade to Kosovo's capital Pristina.

The EU and the Balkan nations want the infrastructure project to be completed as a positive political sign in rather difficult times.

The Ukrainian conflict has increased the need to further stabilise the Western Balkans. The EU envoy for Kosovo, Miroslav Lajcak, will travel this Friday to Pristina to accelerate negotiations with Serbia.