The lesson of the Balkans: There are no winners in war

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The Balkans is a region where East intersects with West. Sometimes it is consistent, other times it diverges and fights wars under the shadow of different agendas and plans. For some it is a buffer zone, for others it is a dangerous fault line where delicate balances remain and it is not known when this fault line will break.

The peoples of the Balkans, who have spent years in the shadow of bloody wars and genocides, are enjoying a wind of peace thanks to policies of reconciliation. This came to mind when I read the news about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s trip to the Balkans from September 6-8. It is because I am among those who believe that Erdoğan’s 20 years of multi-faceted foreign policy have had a great impact on peace in the region.

A source of support

In fact, it is clear that thanks to the policies in question, our country has gradually strengthened its position in the Balkans and has become a more notable player. The West, as usual, finds Turkey’s dominant influence strange and is troubled by the situation.

However, this does not damage the connection between Turkey and the Balkan countries. As it stands, we are talking about countries and peoples who lived under Turkish rule for 450 years and mixed their own cultures with Turkish culture. In other words, we are the ones who have been living side by side for centuries without discrimination based on language and religion!

Unaware of this, the Western media is again trying to create a storm in a teacup and the perception that Turkey is trying to prevent Balkan integration with the West. Forget the attempted break with the West, Turkey actually supports the accession of the Balkan countries to NATO for the maintenance of stability and security. The EU welcomes their entry into the negotiation process.

Moreover, given that Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952, joined the Council of Europe immediately after its creation and filed its first application to the EU on 31 July 1959, it is clear that the Turkey’s activities in the Balkans are not a challenge. West.

A war of influence

So why is the target misrepresented? Because the Balkans are always at the center of the attention of the great powers. In other words, power struggles are always played out on it, and new strategies are being devised for it. In first place is the EU. The bloc sees the Balkans as the future of its enlargement zone, and it is acting accordingly. America is in second place. American influence is particularly powerful in Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Kosovo, and it does not want to lose it.

Russia, which continues its war against Ukraine, does not take its eyes off the Balkans even when the country is in the line of fire. Its objective is the same as that of the United States: to increase its influence throughout the region. For this reason, they sometimes employ arguments based on race (Slavic) and religion (Orthodox Christianity).

Meanwhile, China is very excited about its activity in the region. It bought the Greek port of Piraeus and started supporting infrastructure projects in Serbia. In short, the country is doing its best to make its presence felt in the region.

So what about Turkey? Of course, it is natural for us to seek mutual benefits, but without stirring the pot, taking sides and covering our tracks. To this end, the foreign policy aimed at maintaining peace and stability in the Balkans is being pursued under Erdoğan’s leadership. This is the most important and most human difference between us and others!

Let’s take a look at Erdoğan’s recent trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia. As far as I can tell, Erdoğan’s conciliatory and peaceful rhetoric came to the fore during this visit and grabbed the headlines, like his previous ones. As part of the trip, connections were made to increase economic investment and trade volume, but perhaps the most important message of the visit was that Turkey was ready to make any contribution to the pursuit of peace. in the Balkan. One of the main topics on Erdoğan’s agenda was the continuing border issue between Serbia and Kosovo.

Turkey is determined

During his visit to Serbia, Erdoğan reiterated his calls for dialogue during a joint press conference held with his counterpart Aleksandar Vucic. While saying he hoped the troubles in Bosnia and Herzegovina would end as soon as possible, he uttered the short but profound phrase: “There are no winners in war!”

“We always sincerely support solving problems through dialogue. When our help is requested, we provide the necessary support with a constructive and impartial understanding. We are ready to provide all kinds of assistance to solve the problem between Kosovo and Serbia. The developments are positive at the moment and I hope that this positive dynamic in the Balkans will continue because the region can no longer tolerate such unrest. We have always followed a policy of balance between Russia and Ukraine and we will continue on this path,” Erdoğan said.

“I can say clearly that I don’t find the attitude of the West to be right. Because they follow a policy based on provocation. Can we say that there is a winner in this war? No. There are no winners in this war, but there are many losers. So many people are dying. It is not necessary to talk about the monetary aspect of the matter. We hope that a conclusion will be reached as soon as possible and that world peace will once again be restored with the end of this war,” Erdoğan added.

Naturally, this is the wish of every sane and conscientious person. I dream of the guns being silenced sooner rather than later and for the days when no life or creature, human or animal, will be destroyed by human hands prematurely.

Visa-free travel

A final note: During the Balkan trip, businessmen exchanged contacts, bureaucrats signed deals, and friendships grew stronger. But that’s not all. There is good news for citizens. After the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, Serbia has been added to the list of countries where you can travel with a smart ID card rather than with a passport. Days without a passport and without a visa, new discoveries and good memories await us. We hope these will continue.

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