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Turkey is essential for stability in the Balkans, insists Bosnia

March 9, 2021 at 6:59 pm

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) meets the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sefik Dzaferovic (L) at Vahdettin Mansion in Istanbul, Turkey on November 6, 2020 [TUR Presidency/Murat Cetinmuhurdar – Anadolu Agency]

Turkey is an essential factor for stability in the Western Balkans, one of the presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina said yesterday.

“Turkey is an important country in the world and an important stability factor in the Western Balkans,” said Sefik Dzaferovic, the Bosniak member of the country’s three-man presidency. “It has good relations with all Western Balkan countries, and this is very important for Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

His comments come ahead of an official visit by members of the Presidency to Turkey, which is scheduled to take place on 16 March. The Bosnian leader said that a number of topics will be discussed and addressed during the visit, among them “cooperation in the field of infrastructure.”

He mentioned the Sarajevo-Belgrade Highway Project which aims to connect the capitals of Bosnia and Serbia, which Turkey has supported and been involved in. The project agreement, said Dzaferovic, is “likely” to be signed during the visit to Turkey. Construction began in 2019 and the highway will ensure that Bosnia and Herzegovina will have easier access to Western European countries as well as its neighbours.

READ: Bosnia and Herzegovina’s regional challenges

Also on the agenda in Turkey will be the Free Trade Agreement, which was revised in Ankara in 2019. According to Dzaferovic, “The agreement aims to increase our trade volume above $1 billion per year. This is not unattainable because our current trade volume is at $750 million. This figure can go over $1 billion.”

Another topic that is of concern to Sarajevo, and which the presidency hopes to discuss in Ankara, is that of migration and the refugee crisis. Refugees fleeing to Europe have often used Bosnia as a transit route, and there are many who are stranded in the country because they can’t get through to neighbouring Croatia.

“There are two solutions,” said the Bosniak leader. “One is for these people to go to the EU, the other is to send these people back to their countries of origin, saying that the EU does not want immigrants anymore.” He stressed that either way, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been left to deal with the problem alone, much like Turkey has.

READ: ‘Mankind’s greatest peace project needs Turkey,’ says Ambassador