Turkish foreign minister visits Serbia

BELGRADE -- Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday the Balkan nations were "as one family" and could settle all their differences "in a brotherly way."

(Beta)
(Beta)

His host, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić, pointed out after their meeting that "some actions and statements should no be an obstacle to good relations."

"Turkey and Serbia view some parts of history and the present in different ways, which is understandable, " Dačić told a joint news conference after a meeting with Davutoglu.

That is why it is necessary for the two countries to seek common interest in the future, he noted.

According to Dačić, Serbia and Turkey wish to reduce any tension in their relations, bring them to normal and strenthen them.

The two countries have a lot in common, Davutoglu stated.

"Turkey is willing to work with Serbia towards a better future of both Serbia and the Balkans, because it knows Serbia is the backbone of the Balkans," he remarked.

When asked if his visit meant the end of the dispute caused by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's statement from last year that "Kosovo was Turkey and Turkey was Kosovo," Davutoglu avoided a direct response.

He said Belgrade was "a friendly city that he liked to visit often."

A common goal of the two countries is to develop their mutual relations in economy, sport, culture, science, security, defense and crisis response, the two officials agreed, adding that a Serbian-Turkish business forum should be held in Turkey in the fall.

Trade between Serbia and Turkey in 2013 was EUR 760 million, Dačić stated, adding that 170,000 Serbian tourists visited Turkey that year, 30,000 Turkish tourists came to Serbia.

Dačić thanked the Turkish government for its assistance during the recent floods, adding that it was now vital to Serbia to collect funds from international donors to repair the areas hit by the disaster.

Turkey has had bitter experiences with earthquakes and was deeply distressed by the disaster that struck Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and is willing to provide any help possible, Davutoglu stated.

He extended sympathy on behalf of the Turkish citizens to the people of Serbia for their losses during the disaster.

When asked if a meeting between Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Turkey would be organized "soon" - Dačić said that "the focus now should be on rebuilding the relations between Serbia and Turkey."

Commenting on the situation regarding Air Serbia and Turkish Airlines, the two officials said it was "in the hands of the appropriate ministries and the airlines themselves, but added that there was a joint interest in resolving the problem."

According to media reports, Turkish Airlines could lose "ideal landing and take-off slots at the Belgrade airport Nikola Tesla starting from July 1 because the related agreement between Serbia and Turkey stipulates reciprocity."

The Turkish company has 21 flights out of Belgrade a week, while Air Serbia has only 7 from Istanbul, and not from the main airport, Ataturk, but from the smaller one, Sabiha Gokcen.

Controversy

Relations between Serbia and Turkey deteriorated last year after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan visited Kosovo, where he stated that "Turkey is Kosovo, and Kosovo Turkey."

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić reacted to the statement to day it was tantamount to "an act of aggression without weapons," while Ivica Dačić, who served as prime minister at the time, called it "a direct provocation."

His first deputy at the time, Aleksandar Vučić, sought an "urgent apology".

Ahmet Davutoglu said a short time later that his country had no intention of apologizing, and said Erdogan's statement "contained no insult, only positive feelings."

His reference to Kosovo, Davutoglu continued, "was not political in nature, nor did it express an expansionist policy."

In December, Nikolić canceled a planned trilateral meeting between Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Turkey.

Turkey has recognized Kosovo as independent after ethnic Albanians made a unilateral declaration in early 2008. Serbia rejected the proclamation as unconstitutional and considers the territory its province.