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Bosnia's intl governor praises Turkish role, dismisses concerns

Bosnia's intl governor praises Turkish role, dismisses concerns

Visiting Ankara, the high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina yesterday praised Turkey's active involvement in the Balkans, especially in Bosnia, a country he said is inching toward Euro-Atlantic integration. But he dismissed concerns that Ankara is favoring one side in the region. "Some people say Turkey is playing a one-sided role. This is, of course, not true," Valentin Inzko, the international high representative who holds protectorate powers in Bosnia, told a small group of journalists in Ankara before his official meetings at the Foreign Ministry. Turkey is playing an active role in the region and has accelerated its diplomatic efforts through two separate mechanisms, one involving Turkey, Bosnia and Serbia, and the other Turkey, Bosnia and Croatia. This close engagement, however, has drawn criticism from some who argue that Ankara is holding the rights of Muslims, also called Bosniaks, above other groups in Bosnia. "I don't share this concern, but there was this impression in certain circles, not from my side," said Inzko. "I think it is not true and I don't think any country in the world is doing a good policy if it is one-sided and supporting just one part of the population." He said he had proof that Turkey has adopted a "balanced approach." "There is a sharp increase in relations between Turkey and Serbia, which is Orthodox. Turkey has huge trade relations with Russia, which is also Orthodox," said Inzko. His visit comes in the wake of last month's general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where effort to form a government are still ongoing. Inzko said they could last until February. "We hope that we will not have a more fragile situation, but rather a stronger one," he said. Bakir Izzetbegovic, who was elected one of the three presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was set to arrive in Ankara last night for unofficial talks, according to Turkish diplomatic sources. Izzetbegovic, the son of Bosnia's late wartime President Alija Izzetbegovic, was elected the Bosniak member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Presidential Council, a three-member mechanism with one Bosniak, one Croatian and one Serb elected by direct popular vote for a four-year term, with a rotating eight-month presidency. The situation of the Office of the High Representative, created by the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, is a source of contention. Since 2006, rumors have spread that the office would be shut down, undermining the representative's credibility. "Only the Peace Implementation Council can decide on the closure," said Inzko. "And I don't think a decision will be taken." Turkey, a member of the Peace Implementation Council, which oversees the implementation of Dayton, keeps its ties with the office at the highest level and warns against a speedy decision on its fate.

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