Erdogan organizes meeting with Izetbegovic, Vucic: Turkey is willing to find possibility to construct two routes of Sarajevo-Belgrade highway

Photo: Presidency of the Republic of Turkey

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Bosniak member of BiH Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Monday. The officials discussed the project of construction of Sarajevo-Belgrade highway and the relations of Bosniaks and Serbs.

Addressing the media after the meeting, Izetbegovic said that results of this meeting could be historic. According to him, Turkey is willing to find a possibility to build the highway as a full circle from Sarajevo to Belgrade and back. “It means construction of a highway, or mostly highway combined with sections of speedway that would circle Sarajevo-Zenica-Tuzla-Brcko-Bijeljina-Belgrade and then Pozega, Visegrad and back to Sarajevo,” said Izetbegovic.

Commenting the claims that his attendance of the meeting was not in accordance with the protocol and that he does not represent the Presidency of BiH as a whole, Izetbegovic said: “Mister Vucic and I were invited to a working meeting, I worked in accordance with the decisions of the Parliament of BiH, which is the route via Tuzla towards Belgrade, and that has been achieved. I believe that this, if are not forced to deal with whims and unnecessary Balkan stubbornness we know, might become a historic day.”  He also emphasized as very important the promise of Serbian President who said that BiH would never again have any problems with Serbia.

Following the meeting, Serbian President Vucic stated that peace and stability of the region are important to Serbia. “I said what is most important to me. Serbia respects territorial integrity of BiH, the Dayton Peace Agreement, and all we ask of Bosniaks is to have Serbs in the RS and everywhere else in BiH feel safe. As we do not want to violate your territorial integrity, we ask you to have such stance towards the RS, which is an entity on the territory of BiH according to the Dayton Agreement,” underlined Vucic.

Serbian President emphasized that Izetbegovic did not present himself as a president. “To be honest, he introduced himself as Bosniak member of the Presidency. And that was how he introduced himself and how he talked. I could tell whatever you like, but to be fair – this is what Izetbegovic said”, Vucic added.

“What is most important to the people is that we are going to be able to ensure permanent peace for the Serb people through joint efforts, as well as for Bosniaks and Croats, and all others living on the territory of BiH", Vucic noted, adding that he also discussed other infrastructural projects with Izetbegovic, as they could contribute to economic development of both countries. He emphasized that Serbia will do everything in its power to ensure completion of the Bratunac-Ljubovija border crossing.

Commenting the trilateral meeting in Istanbul, BiH Presidency Chairman Dragan Covic stated that Izetbegovic did not go to Turkey on behalf of the Presidency of BiH. He further explained that all three members of BiH Presidency talked about this and that he and Serb member of the Presidency Mladen Ivanic agreed it would be an unacceptable option. “In that case, Izetbegovic departed on his own or on behalf of his party, not on behalf of the Presidency”, underlined Covic. Commenting Izetbegovic’s recent statement from Belgrade, when he said that foreign policy of BiH will be created in Sarajevo only, Covic said: “Now suddenly, one of BiH Presidency members, on someone’s behalf, we do not know whose and we are still making guesses, is going to another country, talking to presidents of other two countries and talking about some topics that can be nothing else but foreign policy of BiH. I hope that Izetbegovic will explain that to us tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but in any case, as a form, this is unacceptable for me”.

RS President Milorad Dodik noted it is “a serious precedent” that only one member of the Presidency of BiH is taking part in the meeting, and on top of it, it is not the Chairman of the Presidency. “In that way there is an attempt to give another dimension to it. It is dangerous for BiH, and it comes from people who persistently try to portray themselves as its defenders, which is done by Bakir Izetbegovic, and in fact he undermines essence of its institutions and its existence”, he said. The RS President further noted the RS has excellent relations with Serbia and that Turkey is dramatically interfering by providing direct support to Bosniaks. 

“We are confident and we believe Vucic presented the RS and the Serb people properly at the meeting in Istanbul, protecting our interests,” said Dodik, but he underlined that the problem is with BiH representation. “BiH is a union of two entities – the RS and the FBiH – and three constituent peoples, which is why Izetbegovic could only represent Bosniak people,” he noted.