President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday welcomed the easing of tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, calling for dialogue to resolve the issues.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Serbian counterpart Alexandar Vucic in Belgrade, Erdoğan said the positive momentum in the Balkans should continue, adding: “The Balkans can no longer tolerate adversity.”

Turkey considers Serbia a key country for peace and stability in the Balkans, he added.

Touching on bilateral relations, Erdoğan said traveling without a passport with Serbia would take bilateral relations to “a new level”.

During Erdoğan’s visit, the second leg of a tour of the three Balkan countries, Turkey and Serbia signed seven agreements in areas such as economy, industry and technology, including a protocol allowing mutual passport-free travel for nationals of both sides.

Vucic, for his part, hailed the Turkish investments, saying the two countries aim to raise bilateral trade volume to $2.5 billion.

Serbia counts on Turkey’s support for the continuation of talks aimed at resolving lingering disputes with Kosovo, the Serbian Foreign Minister said on Friday.

The 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.

Reasons for the tensions between Serbia and Kosovo

Serbia and Kosovo agreed last month on a new border policy in an EU-facilitated dialogue process.

Tensions were rising in the region over Kosovo’s plans to make it compulsory for everyone, including Serbs living in the north, to have a Kosovo identity card and license plates for cars.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, with most UN member states including the US, UK, France, Germany and Turkey recognizing it as a separate autonomous country . Serbia, however, continues to claim Kosovo as its territory.

War in Ukraine

Another topic mentioned by Erdoğan was the war in Ukraine and its impact on Europe. Erdoğan said he did not find the West’s attitude “right”, adding that they were carrying out a “provocative policy” towards Russia.

“I can clearly say that I do not find the attitude of the West (towards Russia) fair. Because there is a West that follows a policy based on provocation,” Erdoğan said.

Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February, Turkey has emphasized that it has followed a policy of balance, which has borne fruit, as evidenced by the historic agreement in Istanbul last July unblocking grain exports from Ukraine.

Erdoğan added that it doesn’t look like the Russian-Ukrainian war will end “anytime soon”, adding: “I say to those who underestimate Russia, you are wrong. Russia is not a country that can be underestimated.”

The president also reiterated Ankara’s balanced policy between Russia and Ukraine to help resolve the crisis.

Turkey’s policy of maintaining dialogue and communication channels with Russia has also led Turkey to host the highest-level meetings of Moscow and Kyiv officials since the start of the war.

“Seduction” tour in the Balkans

Erdoğan was welcomed with an official ceremony in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, during the second leg of his tour of the three Balkan countries.

The two leaders held individual talks and meetings between delegations, followed by a joint press conference.

During the talks, all aspects of bilateral relations were reviewed and measures to strengthen cooperation in various fields were discussed. Developments in the Balkans and international issues were also on the agenda.

Erdoğan then attended the Turkey-Serbia Business Forum and visited Belgrade Castle.

Erdoğan started his tour of the three Balkan countries with Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday. His last stop will be Croatia on Thursday.



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