The diplomatic skills of the Turkish president can pave the way for innovative solutions to recent diplomatic issues in the Balkans, said a Serbian political analyst, speaking as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan embarks this week on a three-day trip to the region.
"The visit of Turkish President Erdoğan is important. His political authority and international reputation are enough to calm tensions, and his diplomatic skills can open up space for creative solutions in the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina," said Dejan Vuk Stankovic of the University of Belgrade.
"As far as Kosovo is concerned, the Turkish position is known, and the entire complicated and tense political process is managed by the EU and the US, so the possibility of influence by any third actor is very limited. A favorable circumstance for Turkish foreign policy is that the American, dominantly European position and the Turkish point of view coincide politically."
Stankovic said Erdoğan's visit coincides with rising tensions in the region.
"Tensions are a constant, unfortunately. Kosovo has been an unresolved problem for several decades and the final solution is not in sight, but the security risk is increasing day by day," he explained.
"The political positions of Serbia and Kosovo Albanians are sharply conflicted, and it is difficult to find the minimum of commonality necessary for a gradual resolution of the dispute. Tensions are growing in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the runup to the (Oct. 2) elections, where Serbs and Croats are objectively afraid of Bosniak political majorization and the loss of political and cultural rights acquired by the (1995) Dayton Agreement, which ended the bloody civil war."
Erdoğan is set to visit the capitals of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia in a three-day mini Balkan tour starting Tuesday.
During his visits, Erdoğan is expected to reaffirm Ankara's commitment to peace and stability in the region.
According to Stankovic, Türkiye can play a mediating role in the Balkans.
"Türkiye can play an important mediating role in real or potential conflicts between the Balkan peoples and gain political authority if it adheres to the principle of 'minimum balance of legitimate interests of the Balkan peoples.' This principle excludes favoring the interests of any individual people, especially to the detriment of another or other people," he said.
"This is not easy either for historical or political reasons and for religious reasons, bearing in mind that Bosniaks and mostly Albanians are politically and religiously extremely close to Türkiye. But that is the only way because other nations, above all the Serbs, value their freedom for which they sacrificed a lot in the past, and are ready to show political heroism now and in the near or far future."
Stankovic said the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ)-the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Türkiye-is a sovereign matter of the Turkish state and that Serbs do not want FETÖ schools in their country.
Disguising its true nature, the terrorist group has numerous private schools abroad that it uses as a revenue stream.
"We respect Türkiye and do not want FETÖ schools on our territory because the religious and political controversies surrounding those schools are a sovereign matter of the Turkish state and it should decide what it thinks about it. As far as we can see, the official Ankara position opposes them and we, as reliable partners, respect the Turkish position," said Stankovic.
FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 in Türkiye in which 252 people were killed and 2,734 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions; particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
Top Serbian officials have many times stressed their solidarity with Türkiye against FETÖ.
President Aleksandar Vucic was among the first European and world leaders to voice support for Turkish President Erdoğan on the night of the coup attempt.
According to Stankovic, personal ties between Erdoğan and Vucic are important for the region.
"Personal relationships between presidents are important. In the region of the Western Balkans, perhaps more important than in the European or Anglo-American world of rationality and refined and distant manners. Of course, personal relations by themselves do not abolish fundamental political differences, but they relax them and open the perspective of the rapprochement of all countries," said Stankovic.
He added that cooperation has the perspective and possibility to be upgraded to many more projects on the economic, educational, cultural, and not to mention the political-security level.
"Türkiye has its own special sensibility for this part of the world where Serbia is located ... Serbs and Turks, it seems, understand each other better than Serbs and Danes or Serbs and Estonians, therefore concrete things such as increasing economic, cultural, educational, and health cooperation should be worked on," said Stankovic.
During Erdoğan's Balkan visit, business forums are planned in Sarajevo, Belgrade, and Zagreb with the cooperation of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Türkiye (DEIK).
In recent years, the Balkans region has become an attractive market for Turkish investors with its qualified workforce, business-friendly investment environment, and tax and financial incentives.
The region-which has deep historical and cultural ties with Türkiye-is often described as Türkiye's gateway to the EU thanks to its geographical location.