Kosovo joined the EU and US sanctions against Russia as the first country from the region, according to the country's president.
"We have joined sanctions immediately as the first country in the region, sanctions of the European Union and those from the United States," Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu said in an interview on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum recently held in Turkiye.
The Russia-Ukraine war, which began on Feb. 24, has drawn international condemnation, led to financial sanctions on Moscow, and spurred an exodus of global firms from Russia.
At least 691 civilians have been killed and 1,143 injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the war, while over 3 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries, according to the UN.
"And we are undertaking additional measures to show that we stand with the people of Ukraine, we stand (with) Ukraine," as sovereign and democratic nations have the right to decide on their own, Osmani-Sadriu said.
She said her country has gone through a similar struggle so that it understands Ukraine's situation "fully."
"I believe that being a country that has gone through something similar, we were victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed by (Slobodan) Milosevic regime at a time when he cared about nothing, no rules, no basic rules of international law or international humanitarian law, and having been refugees ourselves, we fully understand the pains and the sufferings that the people of Ukraine are going through," she said.
That is why Kosovo tries to help "with anything" that it can, she said, and added: "We have opened our doors for and we have shown willingness to receive Ukrainian refugees. We are supporting journalists from Ukraine, knowing how important (it) is to support free speech and free media in order to fight the Russian propaganda."
She voiced concerns of a possible spillover effect in the Western Balkans as Russia is "using Serbia as its proxy in the region for quite some time."
"It has been exerting influence on Serbia, whether it's political, economic, or military," she said. "And they will want to expand the conflict elsewhere," she said, adding that they are "working hand in hand" with partners, including Turkiye, the EU members, the US, and other NATO allies to make sure that they "stop that from happening."
The president also praised Turkiye's efforts to bring Russian and Ukrainian parts together at a table, noting it would benefit the civilians.
- 'Having countries from Western Balkans in NATO is key'
Stressing that NATO membership should be seen from a security point of view, Osmani-Sadriu said: "I think having countries from the Western Balkans to join NATO, (having) both Kosovo and Bosnia, is the key to that. Because Albania's, North Macedonia's, and Montenegro's joining NATO have contributed to stability not only in these countries but also in the region."
Kosovo's military has been built in full line with NATO standards, she said, and continued: "We are fulfilling criteria and are ready to meet any other criteria that are necessary out there. And obviously, we want to first join Partnership for Peace to, later on, continue with the process of joining NATO."
She noted that increasing the cooperation with the US and having that permanent military basis are "now more important than ever," given that her country is still not in NATO.
"The more international presence, the possible, the better," she added.
- Kosovo-Serbia ties
"The only thing that can have a negative impact in our dialogue with Serbia is the fact that Serbia has been using obstruction through participation as a method," the Kosovo president said. "So they do sit down at the table but they obstruct everything."
She added that Kosovo has been showing its willingness to actively engage in the dialogue by proposing concrete ideas that will bring more peace and stability to the region.
She also criticized Serbia's siding with Russia amid Moscow's war on Ukraine.
- 'Blessed' to have friend like Turkiye
Osmani-Sadriu said she believes they have been "really blessed" to have a friend like Turkiye.
"A country that stood by us during the most difficult times, but also during our brightest days," she added.
Underlining that political and diplomatic operations between the two countries are "excellent," she said cooperation in the defense sector is also increasing.
For Serbia, Turkiye is "one of the top two partners in this area," she said.
She said there is a free trade agreement between Kosovo and Turkiye, which helps bring more Turkish investors to Kosovo and exports from Kosovo to Turkiye.
Noting that she visited Ankara and Istanbul a few days ago, she said: "I saw how much potential there is out there to really increase the cooperation in trade and economy and other areas."
On Antalya Diplomacy Forum, she said it is an "extremely important" event that has "grown so much" in only two years.
"I think the event is extremely important not just because it's timely, but also because it's tackling some of the most important issues out there," she added.
*Writing by Beyza Binnur Donmez in AnkaraAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.