Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gul Denies pro-Muslim Bias Towards Balkans

Gul (L) and Silajdzic (R) walk by Bosnia's honor guard
Gul (L) and Silajdzic (R) walk by Bosnia's honor guard

Turkish President Abduallah Gul has dismissed as “tendentious” Bosnian Serb claims that Turkey has a secret agenda that includes ensuring the dominance of Bosnia's Muslim population over the country's Serb and Croat peoples in the Balkans.

He made his comments in a speech to the Bosnian parliament in Sarajevo on Thursday amid a boycott by Bosnian Serb lawmakers, who view growing Turkish influence in the Balkans with suspicion, accusing Ankara of pro-Bosniak bias.

Gul said in his address: “Turkey looks at all the Balkan countries as its neighbours and it is in our interests that the Balkan countries live in peace, solidarity, friendship and prosperity.

“I assure you that nothing outside this is on our agenda.”

He said the stability of Bosnia was of crucial importance to the stability of Europe, urging the country’s leaders to cross ethnic divides and work together for prosperity and the success of their people.

"Turkey will do everything that is in our power and everything you allow us to do for this to be achieved as soon as possible,” he said.

Gul added Turkey wanted the Balkans to “move from the fringes and become a part of Europe ... a crossroads of important economic and political corridors”.

But Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said Serbs “should not be naïve” in believing Turkey had good intentions.

Speaking to journalists in Jahorina, he added that Turkey was playing an important role in international affairs, but that “does not mean that we in the Republika Srpska should applaud their hidden political agenda [for the Balkans]".

Turkey has recently intensified its efforts to help countries of the former Yugoslavia - notably Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia - to overcome differences that remain from the wars in the 1990s.

It has organised several meetings with foreign ministers of the three Balkan countries as part of the effort.

In April, meeting between Haris Silajdzic, the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) chairman of Bosnia’s presidency and his Serbian counterpart, Boris Tadic, in Istanbul during which the two Balkan leaders agreed to work to improve their troubled relations.

Gul added on Thursday that "more such meetings should be expected either at the same [presidential] level or at the level of foreign ministers".

Under the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, the country was divided into two highly independent entities – the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Croat-Bosniak federation.

The two are united by weak central institutions, but each has its own government, parliament and presidency.

On Friday, the second and final day of his Bosnia visit, Gul is expected to meet the international community’s High Representative in the country, Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko, and visit the southern town of Mostar.

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