Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said the West “cannot bear” Turkey’s position in the Balkans.
“The West cannot really bear Turkey’s stance, particularly in the Balkans, as well as steps, initiatives, efforts Turkey takes in the region,” Erdogan said in a joint news conference with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic at the presidential complex in Ankara.
Erdogan said: “Whether it [the West] bears it or not, we are intensively doing whatever we can with TIKA [Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency] in the west, in the Balkans.”
“We are especially displaying all our efforts through the restoration and construction of historical artifacts. We will continue to do so thereafter,” he added.
“Over 220 projects TIKA has carried out in Serbia constitute an important pillar in our bilateral relations,” he said.
Turkey's government-run TIKA agency is responsible for implementing the country’s developmental cooperation policies overseas.
Since it was founded 26 years ago, TIKA has carried out projects in a wide range of areas, such as education, health, infrastructure, and cultural heritage preservation in many regions of the world from the Balkans to the Middle East, and Africa to Latin America.
Erdogan said he and Vucic discussed bilateral relations and exchanged views on recent regional developments in the first Turkey-Serbia High-Level Cooperation Council meeting held earlier Monday.
Pointing out the fact that the bilateral trade volume had surpassed $1 billion last year, the Turkish leader said the target has been increased to $2 billion for 2018 and $5 billion in the long term.
Erdogan also said the planned Belgrade-Sarajevo highway project will strengthen regional and economic ties, while it is a friendship and peace project which Turkey wants to start in a short period of time.
Vucic said “Turkey is the biggest power, the strongest country in the Balkans. What Turkey thinks is important.”
“Turkey is in the Balkans and this is very important to us. If people in other countries see Turkey just politically and not in the field of investment, there’s nothing more I can say here,” Vucic said.
The Serbian leader added: “Our relations with Turkey are significant in order to ensure partnership, peace, and security.”
Monday is the last day of Aleksandar Vucic's two-day visit.
Earlier, Vucic paid tribute to Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk at his mausoleum, Anitkabir.