On Sunday, Turkey's foreign minister wrapped up a three-day official visit to Kosovo, the first leg of a Balkan tour that includes stops in BiH, Serbia and Romania.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 30/08/11
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. [Office of the Prime Minister of Kosovo]
During his visit, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed strong support for Kosovo, particularly its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"We do not want parallel institutions in Kosovo and we want Kosovo to exercise sovereignty throughout its territory. This is the natural right of Kosovo and in this context we evaluated the latest developments in Kosovo, and once again want to state our position to respect the sovereignty of Kosovo," Davutoglu said after meeting with Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj.
Highlighting the special relationship between the two nations, Hoxhaj described Kosovo as the best example of integration of the Turkish community in the region and identified the many citizens from Kosovo living in Turkey as a bridge between the two countries.
"Turkey is a country that has a particular economic, regional and global role, and the Republic of Kosovo is a very attractive market for Turkish investment. I thank Mr. Davutoglu for Turkey's role in supporting peace in all countries of the region, enabling Serbia to accept the political realities, the independence of Kosovo and realities in Bosnia," Hoxhaj said.
During his visit, Davutoglu sought to underline common cultural, historic, and religious ties, but rejected the term "neo-Ottomanism".
He visited the tomb of Sultan Murat near Pristina and inaugurated the Yunus Emre Cultural Centre to promote Turkish culture. Highlighting the religious bonds between the two countries, Davutoglu visited the Sultan Mehmet Fatih mosque in Pristina, where he said "I came to Pristina during the holy night of Laylat al-Qadr [the day the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad], because Kosovo is my second home."
Davutoglu also visited the Turkish community in Prizren and Mamusa in southern Kosovo and then headed to Mitrovica, Peja, Istog and Skenderaj, where he met with the family of the first commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Adem Jashari, and visited his grave.
Evaluating Davutoglu's visit, Seb Bytyci, executive director of the Balkan Policy Institute (IPOL), said that Turkey is a strong supporter of Kosovo in its path to EU integration, being influenced by Turks living in Kosovo, and Albanians living in Turkey.
"Kosovo-Turkey relations are very good now. There is a Turkish minority in Kosovo, and an Albanian minority in Turkey. Many Turkish companies have obtained contracts in Kosovo, and more are interested to come. Arguably, these relations will only strengthen in the future. However, Kosovars understand that these are in the context of Turkey's improved relations with all its Balkan neighbours," said Bytyci.
According to Agron Demi, executive director of the Institute for Advanced Studies (GAP), Turkey has fostered its relationships with Kosovo and BiH based on the principles outlined in Davutoglu's book "Strategic Depth", where he outlines the need for Turkey to build relationships with countries that were part of the Ottoman Empire.
However, Bytyci argues that the foreign policy introduced by Davutoglu presents a rosy view of the Ottoman experience in the Balkans, which is in contrast to what people in these countries, including Kosovo, believe.
"People in Kosovo are skeptical about the neo-Ottoman embrace which might be too suffocating. Turkey, it seems, focuses on the cultural soft-power aspect to increase its influence in Kosovo, and this might increase further skepticism, given that Turkey treats Kosovo's rival Serbia as a mutual partner, especially in defence co-operation," Bytyci said.
"Relations should be based on mutual understanding of the past, as well as on mutual interests. A one-sided view does not help in this regard."