TURKEY

Bosnia is a friend of Turkey: Bosnian leader Izetbegovic

BOSNIA IS A FRIEND OF TURKEY: BOSNIAN LEADER IZETBEGOVIC

Even as Bosnia-Herzegovina faced a difficult year in some respects, it remains lucky to have Turkey as a true friend, the Bosniak member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's tripartite presidency has told Anadolu Agency.

Reviewing developments and Bosnia-Herzegovina's ties with Turkey and other countries in the region in 2017, Bakir Izetbegovic began by stating: "Bosnia-Herzegovina is a friend of Turkey."

Izetbegovic praised Turkey's efforts to build better relations with countries in the region, calling its role in the region calming and constructive.

"Turkey is providing assistance to the region in the peace process and also making investments in Ottoman heritage in the region and contributing to countries' tourism potential," Izetbegovic said.

He said Turkey supported all of Bosnia-Herzegovina's priorities such as its bids to join both the European Union and NATO.

"Peace in the region, better regional relations, and economic development are all examples of this," he said.

Bosnia's abstention from UN Jerusalem vote

Last week Bosnia-Herzegovina abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution rejecting the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Noting that foreign policy decisions in Bosnia-Herzegovina were up to the Tripartite Presidency Council, Izetbegovic said these decisions were thus made by consensus.

"We received a recommendation from our Foreign Ministry that we should not follow the attitude of the EU member countries and other countries in the region," he added.

"So we would either not participate in the vote or abstain, because we can only make decisions by consensus, and if even one member of the council is against it, it is impossible for us to make a decision. Although I personally did not want to, we had to abstain."

Izetbegovic said that it was not only Islamic countries which were opposed to the U.S. decision but in fact all civilized countries of the world.

"Everyone opposed the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, besides the U.S. and Israel, and perhaps a few small countries that we heard of for the first time," he said.

The UN resolution rejecting the U.S. decision -- which the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved -- sent "a strong message to both Israeli and U.S. policy," he added.

Relations with Serbia and Croatia

Izetbegovic said that relations between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina had faced multiple crises over the years, but added: "Developing relations further is in the interests of both countries."

He said ties suffered in the wake of last month's public suicide in The Hague of convicted Bosnian Croat war criminal Slobodan Praljak.

Izetbegovic said that everyone had a strong reaction to the suicide of the former general and to the ruling judges.

"But no one talked about the victims" of the war crimes committed, he added.

"Croatian authorities acted like politicians, not leaders, and behaved emotionally in the name of being close to military associations," he said.

Izetbegovic described 2017 as a "flashback year" for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"It was the 25th anniversary of our independence. At the same time, it was the 25th anniversary of parallel structures, parallel armies, and the first war crimes. All of these caused Bosnia-Herzegovina to have a difficult year," he said.

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