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news 03 Sep 15

Turkish Website Glitch Ruffles Feathers in Serbia

Serbian government has protested over the way the Turkish embassy in Serbia was presented on the Turkish Foreign Ministry website, though experts doubt the spat will harm long-term ties.

Igor Jovanovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic | Photo by Beta

Serbia's Foreign Ministry protested on Wednesday over the “provocative definition” of the jurisdiction of the Turkish Embassy in Serbia on the Turkish Foreign Ministry website.

It said the Turkish ambassador to Belgrade Mehmet Kemal Bozay had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry where he was handed a protest.

The official cause of Serbia’s protest was not revealed but media outlets in Belgrade said the problem was that the Turkish embassy was defined as being in charge of “Serbia, Sandzak and Vojvodina” on the ministry website.

Sandzak is a mainly Muslim region in southwest Serbia with no autonomous status. Vojvodina is the northern province of Serbia and has some constitutionally defined autonomous powers.

The Serbian Foreign Ministry later stated that ambassador Bozay felt sorry for the mistake, claiming that it was just a “technical” oversight.

Aleksandra Joksimovic, director of the Centre for Foreign Policy in Belgrade, said she hoped it was a technical oversight and would not endanger relations between the two countries.

“It is important for Serbia to have good relations with Turkey since it is an important country, a NATO member and an very influential member of the international coalition against ISIS,” Joksimovic told BIRN on Wednesday.

She added that Turkey was an influential player in the Balkans and could help Serbia to maintain good relations with Bosniaks [Muslims] in Sandzak as well as Bosnia.

“I believe this was just a mistake, although such mistakes are not usual,” Joksimovic told BIRN.

In June at a forum in Belgrade, Turkish and Serbian experts said relations between the two countries were crucial for the stability of the Balkans.

At a panel organized by the Belgrade Institute for International Politics and Economy, Ali Resul Usul, head of the Center for Strategic Research in Ankara, said cooperation between Turkey, in the eastern Balkans, and Serbia, in the west, was improving, so aiding stability and prosperity in the region.               

Branislav Djordjevic, head of the Institute for International Politics and Economics, meanwhile said Serbia and Turkey were the most important countries in this part of Europe.

"Nothing has happened in the region in the past and nothing is going to happen in the future without their participation," Djordjevic said.

However, the status of Kosovo and the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina are seen as sticking points in relations.

While Turkey has recognized the independence of Kosovo, Serbia has not, and still considers Kosovo its own province.

The Bosnian Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, has repeatedly accused Turkey of taking an anti-Serbian standpoint in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  

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