Davutoglu says Erdogan’s Kosovo remarks misunderstood in Serbia

Davutoglu says Erdogan’s Kosovo remarks misunderstood in Serbia

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said remarks made by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Kosovo were misunderstood in Serbia, adding that Turkey has the same relationship with all Balkan states Today`s Zaman reported.

Davutoglu said Erdogan's remarks on Kosovo were taken out of context by some nationalist circles in Serbia and thus misinterpreted, in what was the first official response to Serbia's reprimand of Turkey.

During an address in Prizren on Wednesday, Erdogan said: "Do not forget that Kosovo is Turkey and Turkey is Kosovo," as he made the "Rabia" hand sign that has become synonymous with the anti-coup protests in Egypt.

Reactions to the prime minister's remarks in Kosovo mounted on Saturday, with the Serbian president seeking an apology from Erdogan for what he called the "scandalous" remarks.

"Turkey targets developing good relations with Serbia and has the same relationship with the rest of the Balkans. Prime Minister Erdogan talked about the shared fate of people of the Balkans in his speech. Balkan countries should act together for peace and stability," said Davutoglu during a televised interview on TRT 1 on Sunday as he responded to criticism from Serbia.

Noting that he had a phone conversation with his Serbian counterpart, Ivan Mrkic, on Sunday morning, Davutoglu said they comprehensively discussed Erdogan's speeches in Prizren and Prishtine.

"I told my dear friend [Mrkic] that when we come to Belgrade we also call it our second home. Belgrade, Prizren and Prishtine are cities that we love very much. Some speeches might be presented as sources of [a diplomatic] crisis when they are taken out of context, but we have enough experience to overcome [such crises]. Both Serbia and Turkey are aware of their difference of opinion on the issue of Kosovo, but both sides are continuing their relations by accepting this difference," said Davutoglu.

"Turkey never uses such expansionist, nostalgic language. However, we use the warmest expressions to describe our closeness [to the Balkan states]. Our prime minister also used this language to describe our closeness," the Turkish foreign minister added.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic announced on Saturday that in protest over Erdogan's remarks he was freezing his attendance at the trilateral meetings between Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Turkey, a mechanism established in October 2009 as part of a Turkish initiative aiming to assess developments related to the Balkan countries.

Nikolic added that the trilateral meetings were not the meetings of "warmongering countries but of democratic countries guided by stately wisdom bringing about peace in the Balkans."

"The scandal made by the Turkish prime minister in Prizren town is a flagrant and brutal violation of the good and friendly relations, by disregarding and encroaching upon the sovereignty of Serbia and by revising history," said Nikolic in a statement published on his official website, and added: "The ideas of [the founder of modern Turkey] Kemal Atatürk are no longer the ideas of the leadership of Turkey."

Turkey was one of the first countries to officially recognize Kosovo's independence from Serbia in early 2008, and some 90 other countries, including the US and 23 EU member countries, now also recognize the country's independence. Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo's independence, considering Kosovo the cradle of Serb culture.

Stating that he expects common sense to prevail in Turkey, Nikolic said he expected an apology for what he called "this armless aggression" from Turkey.

Responding to Nikolic's decision to pull out of the trilateral mechanism, Davutoglu said Turkey attached importance to relations with Serbia and also supported the "dialogue between Prizren and Belgrade."

Turkey's ambassador to Belgrade summoned to Serbian Foreign Ministry

Diplomatic sources who talked to Today's Zaman said that the Serbian Foreign Ministry summoned Turkey's ambassador to Belgrade, Mehmet Kemal Bozay, on Saturday to express its discomfort about remarks that had appeared in the media. Serbian officials told Bozay that Erdogan's remarks were "unacceptable," and that they expected an "urgent explanation and apology" from the Turkish side.

Nikolic recalled in the statement that he had made an effort to turn Serbian-Turkish relations into a "sincere friendship" during his presidency.

"All the time I have drawn the attention of the Turkish president [Abdullah Gül] that it was at least impolite of the Turkish officials to ask the other countries to recognize 'then independence' of Kosovo," the Serbian president said.

In Kosovo, Erdogan had also said that Turkey would continue to back Kosovo's efforts for recognition from additional countries while recalling Turkey's support for Kosovo during the process of achieving recognition from other states.

"Never forget that all of us are people of a shared history, culture and civilization; we are brothers and relatives to each other," Erdogan had further noted in Kosovo.

The first reaction to Erdogan over his Kosovo remarks came from the Serbian Foreign Ministry on Friday, which said in a statement that such remarks cannot be received as "friendly" in Serbia. "They depart from assurances that we get in contacts with Turkey's top officials," the statement added, state news agency TANJUG reported.

"The town of Emperor Dusan [the greatest ruler of medieval Serbia] is probably the least appropriate place for such statements. Everyone in the world knows that Kosovo is a Serbian word and Serbia's territory, even those who have recognized that quasi-state," the Foreign Ministry statement added.

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