SUN, 27 FEB 1994 23:17:56 GMT
AIM, BEOGRAD, February 26
The key of relations between Turkey and FR Yugoslavia lies in the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Otherwise, it is hardly likely that they will be normalized. Both sides are aware of this.
What cannot be bridged by the politicians, can perhaps, be done by ordinary citizens. According to rough estimates, about 10 thousand citizens from the rump Yugoslavia go shopping to Ankara or Istanbul every week. Most say that they are received very well by the merchants there because "no one asks anyone where he is from, but what he wants to buy".
As far as the political relations between the two countries are concerned, we should recall that until the beginning of the war, Turkey wholeheartedly advocated the preservation of Yugoslavia. Both then and now Ankara believed that the former Yugoslavia was the best solution for all the Yugoslav peoples. When things started going downhill, Turkey sided with the Moslem party in the war in B&H, proclaiming Serbia and Montenegro aggressors. The Serbian media frequently satanized that country and a lot was written about its aspirations in the Balkans. The statements were quoted of former Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Ozal that "his country would expand its influence from China to the Adriatic Sea". At the same time, the Turkish press published its facts about Belgrade so that one can say that a genuine Turkish - Serbian media war has been going on for two years now.
What is characteristic, however, is that the Turkish press did not level severe criticism against the Serbs as a people, but rather at the leading politicians, which it accused for the outbreak of the war and the overall crisis accompanying these tragic events.
The charge d'affaires of the Turkish Embassy in Belgrade, Mr.Hasan Aygun says for the AIM: "Despite everything, we have left all channels open for communication. Generally speaking, we have no problems whatsoever with the Serbian people, but with the policy of Belgrade, which is heating up this crisis. It is not true that Serbia and Montenegro have nothing to do with this war. I am sure that the war would have ended 21 month ago, if Serbia and Montenegro had not helped the Serbs in B&H.
We tried hinting to the Yugoslav side that it should do something for a solution to the crisis to be found. It can do it if it wants. We should also bear in mind that Turkey too is suffering because of this crisis, as its transit towards Western Europe has been cut off.
We support any solution acceptable to the Bosnian government. We appeal to the Serbian people to help find a solution in this region. If that is successful there will be no problems between Belgrade and Ankara" - says Aygun.
That communications have not been severed is attested to by the recent visit of Yugoslav Deputy Foreign Minister Zivorad Jovanovic to Ankara (February 1994). It is true that it got sparse coverage from which it is hard to glean the details, but the visit itself means something.
Judging by what we know, both Turkey and Serbia are keen on normalizing their mutual relations as soon as possible. Turkey is considered a regional power, and Serbian President Milosevic has proclaimed his state the strongest in the Balkans. It would be, to say the least, very unhealthy for two regional powers not to maintain at least minimum mutual relations.
Belgrade attached great importance to Turkey before the outbreak of the war in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. This is testified to by Milosevic's visit to Turkey in 1991, and the numerous words of praise heard on that occasion. Milosevic is no exception, because Turkey was also visited by Croatian President Tudjman, Macedonian President Gligorov, while Bosnian President Izetbegovic feels at home in Turkey.
In any case, relations between Ankara and Belgrade will depend on developments in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and in the Balkans as well. What can be seen is that under NATO's ultimatum to the Serbs in B&H, Turkish planes only had the task to defend the Bosnian air space. Namely, they were not to engage in any attacks, which can be attributed to the oversensitivity of Serbian - Turkish relations and "their historic dimension".
It seems that this caution will be of great importance in the future relations between Belgrade and Ankara.
Macedonia, which has special relations with Ankara, in a way also became involved in Turkish - Serbian relations. Serbia looks on that with much suspicion. The closed circle of inter-governmental relations among the most important countries in the Balkans ends with Greece as the "Orthodox friend of Serbia". Experts claim that the end of the war in B&H would solve all problems: Turkey would not need to publicly support the Bosnian government in Sarajevo so much, nor Greece to protect its "Orthodox Serbian friends". The largest obstacle to relations between Belgrade and Ankara would thus be removed.