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07 Mar 11

Montenegro 'Supports' Turkish Role in Balkan Stability

Montenegro's president has said his country fully supports the Turkey-initiated trilateral process involving Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.


Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic added that his country is ready to join, effectively turning the trilateral process into a quartet to shore up stability in Southeast Europe.
“We strongly believe Turkey, as a key and strategic country, has a crucial role to play in the Balkans and we are ready to support any initiative that will shore up stability and peace in the region,” Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic told Sunday's Zaman in an exclusive interview during his visit to the Turkish capital last week.

“Both Turkey and Montenegro can pool political and economic resources to boost cooperation among countries in the Balkans and, I believe, there is huge potential to explore opportunities to that end,” he said.

In late 2009, Turkey launched trilateral cooperation mechanisms with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia on the one hand, and with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia on the other, followed by presidential summits in İstanbul last summer to help work out differences in the Balkans.

Turkish-led efforts have aimed at forging alliances between the Balkan countries, bringing together not only Balkan states that are often at odds with one another but also their neighbours.

Montenegro took over the annual chairmanship of South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) -- a forum that was launched on Bulgaria’s initiative in 1996 to promote regional cooperation -- from Turkey last June. President Vujanovic said he thinks the SEECP is an important tool for solving problems in the region.

“We can further cultivate these special ties and capitalize on them to promote bilateral ties on many fields.” He said many people originally from Montenegro are living in Turkey and underlined that these people could act as catalysts to develop economic ties in particular with the land of their forefathers.

“We have developed an investor friendly environment for global investors, including Turkish ones,” he said, adding that the government of Montenegro is committed to further improving the situation for foreign investors. “Turks are very good in the hospitality and tourism industry. It is a very important revenue-generating sector for us. They could come in and invest in this area as well as in others,” Vujanovic explained.

President Vujanovic acknowledged that they need to carry out better promotion campaigns to advertise the country as a major destination for Turkish travelers and said both countries can work on package-holiday deals that offer travel opportunities in both countries.

Last month the Turkish and Montenegrin tourism ministers signed an agreement on cooperation in tourism. Under the deal, Turkey and Montenegro will work together on education and training, joint destinations and facilitating legal procedures between the two countries. The deal might pave the way for tourism investments by Turkish developers in Montenegro.

Vujanovic also expressed his pleasure at Turkey’s support for the Euro-Atlantic integration process for his country, saying the support of Turkey, which has the second-largest army in NATO, is very important for Montenegro. “The integration of the Balkan states into Euro-Atlantic structures is an important tool for stability and security in the region,” he said.

President Guel, who hosted Vujanovic during his first official visit to Turkey, reiterated Ankara’s support to Montenegro for its integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. He said Turkey staunchly favors the membership of the Balkan nations in the “two great umbrellas” -- the EU and NATO -- to ensure stability and security. Gül noted that Montenegro is taking decisive steps towards becoming a member of NATO and that Turkey supports the Balkan country’s aspirations in this regard.

In return, Vujanovic welcomed Turkey’s growing role in the Balkans and said Montenegro considers Turkey a “very constructive country” in the region and supports Turkey’s activities there.

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