The Limits of Turkey’s Balkans Diplomacy

The Limits of Turkey’s Balkans Diplomacy

Turkey has become increasingly assertive in the Western Balkans in recent years, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying only last week that his country would be happy to mediate in bilateral talks between Kosovo and Serbia. While Turkish involvement in the region is welcomed in many quarters, some say Ankara may be overplaying its hand.

Turkey's ambitious vision for the region, which the Turkish Ottoman empire held sway over for centuries, is no secret. "The Ottoman centuries of the Balkans were success stories," said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on a visit to Sarajevo in October last year. "Now we have to reinvent this."

Davutoglu's remarks raised the hackles of Serb nationalists, who see Turkey as their historic foe. On the ground, too, Turkey's intentions are a divisive issue: Fewer than 15 percent of Serbians consider Turkey a friendly power, compared to 40 percent in Bosnia and 85 percent in Kosovo, according to a Gallup poll.

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