Home Page
17 Oct 11

Turkey Mediates Between Serbia's Battling Muslims

Ankara is getting involved in a fresh bid to end the four-year schism between Serbia's two Islamic communities.

Bojana Barlovac Belgrade

Turkey has intervened to end the damaging split between Serbia's two rival Islamic communities, one based in Belgrade and the other in the mainly Bosniak [Muslim] southwest Sandzak region.

"The solution lies in one unique Islamic community, which will respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and cooperate with all other churches and religious communities in Serbia and the region," Sulejman Ugljanin, a Serbian government minister, who is himelf a Muslim, announced.

It is understood that a Turkish-mediated agreement is to be signed by the two heads of the two Serbian Islamic communities and the head of the Muslim community in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The split dates back to 2007. The Islamic Community in Serbia, based in Novi Pazar, the biggest town in Sandzak, looks to neighbouring Bosnia for spiritual guidance and is led by Muamer Zukorlic. The Islamic Community of Serbia, based in Belgrade, is led by Adem Zilkic.

In the last four years, relations between the two sides have been burdened by mutual non-recognition, a good deal of name-calling and even fisticuffs between their respective supporters.

This is not the first time Turkey has tried to play a mediating role in the affairs of Serbia's Muslim minority.

The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davatoglu attempted to heal the breach on a visit to Novi Pazar two years ago. A Turkish delegation headed by Turkey's ambassador to Serbia, Ali Riza Colak, visited Novi Pazar again this June.

The latest attempt follows a visit by a Serbian government delegation to Ankara on October 10 where Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan received minister Ugljanin and Rasim Ljajic, Labour and Social Policy Minister, also a Muslim, to discuss Turkey's investments in the Sandzak area. Both ministers are declared supporters of Zilkic.

According to a statement issued after the meeting, Erdogan said Turkey would donate 10 million euros to build an airport in Sandzak and another 30 million euros to build a new road from Novi Pazar to the town of Sjenica.

Media reported after the meeting that Turkey had conditioned further assistance to Sandzak on the two Islamic communities in Serbia agreeing to reunite.

Mufti Zukorlic has hitherto rebuffed all talk of reconciliation, but this time his spokesperson Samir Tandir told Balkan Insight that serious talks were ongoing, although he declined to disclose details.

Zukorlic "will respect whatever decision the supreme leaders of the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Turkey make," Tandir said.

blog comments powered by Disqus

News

serbia-on-alert-after-alleged-erdogan-s-remarks
14 Jul 14

Serbia Rattled by Turkish PM’s Bosnia ‘Threat’

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said he "wants to believe" that Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not say that anyone who dares upset Bosniaks will have to face 100 million Turks.

erdogan-likely-to-visit-montenegro-islamic-center-reis
01 Apr 14

Montenegro Muslim Leader Awaits Erdogan Visit

The head of the Islamic Community in Montenegro said that Turkey's Prime Minister will visit the country in April for the opening of an Islamic Centre.

turks-in-sarajevo-celebrated-erdogan-election-win
31 Mar 14

Turks in Sarajevo Celebrate Erdogan Poll Win

Dozens celebrated Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party's win at local elections in Turkey while the strongman leader thanked his Bosnian, Macedonian and Kosovo 'brothers' for support.

davutoglu-erdogan-s-kosovo-statement-misinterpreted
28 Oct 13

Erdogan ‘Misunderstood’ Over ‘Turkey is Kosovo’ Claim

The Turkish prime minister’s statement that “Kosovo is Turkey, and Turkey is Kosovo” was misinterpreted, officials in Ankara insisted after Serbia expressed outrage.

macedonian-president-s-whole-hearted-support-for-endogan-divides-critics
08 Jul 13

Macedonians Divided Over President’s Support for Erdogan

The president’s declaration of support for Turkish premier Erdogan, the target of sustained protests in recent weeks, has drawn both praise and condemnation from Macedonians.

bosnia-serbia-and-turkey-sign-cooperation-protocol
14 May 13

Bosnia, Serbia and Turkey Sign Trade Agreement

Economy and trade ministers from Ankara, Belgrade and Sarajevo formally agreed to improve economic ties in an attempt to boost mutual trade.

turks-sound-wary-over-kek-upgrades
18 Mar 13

Turks Sound Wary Over KEK Upgrades

While Kosovo’s power company expects the new Turkish grid owner to underwrite more than 400,000 euro in recently agreed upgrades, the consortium is making no commitments.

turkish-tv-inspires-rebuilding-of-sultan-bridge-in-croatia
18 Sep 12

Turkish TV Inspires Croats to Rebuild Old Bridge

A Turkish soap opera has inspired locals in the Croatian city of Osijek to mull rebuilding the wooden Ottoman-era bridge that once spanned the river Drava.

construction-starts-of-macedonia-s-tallest-towers
17 Jul 12

Macedonia’s Tallest Towers Arise in Skopje

Construction of four 42-storey skyscrapers, set to be the tallest buildings in Macedonia, started on Monday in Skopje.

greece-concerned-over-turkish-support-for-macedonia-at-nato
21 May 12

Turkish Support for Macedonia's NATO Bid Riles Greece

As Turkey contemplates raising Macedonia’s NATO accession bid at the alliance's Chicago summit, Greek remains adamant that it will block any attempt to force its hand.