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29 Jan 18

Erdogan Vows to Help Build Serbia-Bosnia Highway

Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday reportedly pledged to help build the Belgrade-Sarajevo highway – whose exact route remains disputed between Bosnia’s two entities.

BIRN Team BIRN Belgrade, Sarajevo
From left to right: Vucic, Erdogan and Izetbegovic at the Istanbul meeting. Photo: Predsednik.rs

Turkish President Reccep Tayip Eerdogan has promised to assist Bosnia and Serbia build an inter-connecting highway, after meeting Bosnian Presidency member Bakir Izetbegovic and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Istanbul, Izetbegovic told the media.

“It is a giant project – but Turkey is a great country, doing great things,” Izetbegovic told the regional TV station N1 after the three-way meeting.

Bosnia’s two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, remain in deadlock over the exact route of the highway.

According to Turkish media, Turkish investment in the region, trilateral relations and a motorway project between Novi Pazar and Priboj, in Serbia’s mainly Bosniak southern Sandzak region, were also discussed in Istanbul.

Izetbegovic added that Serbian President Vucic had assured Eerdogan that Bosnia and Serbia would “never have trouble again” – and called the meeting potentially “historic”.

Vucic said after the meeting that Bosnia and Serbia would work harder to secure “a permanent and secure peace”, adding that Belgrade continued to honour the 1995 Dayton peace agreement that ended the 1992-5 war in Bosnia.

“All we ask from the Bosniaks is to make Serbs in Bosnia feel safe and – just as we do not question Bosnia’s territorial integrity – we ask them to treat Republika Srpska the same,” Vucic said, according to Beta news agency, referring to Bosnia's mainly Serbian entity.

However, the Republika Srpska President, Milorad Dodik, criticised Izetbegovic’s presence at the meeting because Izetbegovic is only a member, and not the current chair, of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency.

“As far as I understand, it [his presence at the meeting] was not the decision of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina but of Izetbegovic, possibly Erdogan,” Dodik told the press, calling Izetbegovic’s visit a “dangerous precedent”.

Sarajevo-based political analyst Ivana Maric told BIRN that Izetbegovic’s visit to Istanbul did indeed skirt standard procedure because he is not the chair of the state presidency.

The chair’s position rotates every six months between the three Bosniak, Serbian and Croatian members.

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