Turkey’s Erdogan calls Serbia key to peace in the Balkans

President of Turkey Recep Erdogan highlighted his visit to Belgrade Wednesday with a “call for dialogue” to ease tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, although he praised recent compromises between the two states—even while also signing agreements to endorse better trade and passport-free travel between Serbia and Turkey.

The talks have been a focus for EU observers, due to a year of increasing tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, strained internal issues within Bosnia and Herzegovina and Russian pressure, assumed to be on the increase since the invasion of Ukraine.

Erdogan was quoted as calling Serbia the key to peace in the Balkans, and at the same time Wednesdays visit was symbolic of how Erdogan has moved to the fore as a power player in the region, harping on solid relations with Serbia while also providing key weapons early to Ukrainians during the defense of Ukraine and Kyiv. And although the EU has pressed for “normalization” in Kosovo—and it is seen as having been key to brokering talks over ID and automobile license place disagreements, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has made much of the relationship between Turkey and Serbia, emphasizing Wednesday, Sept. 7, that increased trade is a primary goal with the two countries pledging to meet volumes equal to USD 2.5 bln.

That said, while hopeful, the Belgrade discussions hardly mask the difficulties in the region.

First there is the war in Ukraine–and with regard to the war Erdogan has attempted multiple times to negotiate talks between Moscow and Kyiv, yet negotiations seem far-fetched with a current offensive under way by Ukrainian forces in the south and both Ukraine and Russia warning about the dangers of shelling near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

And closer to home, despite the gloss of a visit to Kosovo by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brbanic, neither side is without its barbs. Earlier this week Brnabic noted that Serbia would not allow the persecution of the Serbian minority in Kosovo and emphasized that her goal was to provide security and safety for Serbs in Kosovo who feel “unsafe.” This was met immediately with a sharp response from Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who stated that Serbs who feel unsafe in Kosovo are “criminals.”

Sticks and stones, but if Erdogan is to be believed, perhaps Vucic and Brnabic are getting somewhere.

File photo of Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti courtesy of Arianit, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

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