By Talha Ozturk
SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Turkey's counter-terrorist efforts in the Middle East benefit not just itself, but the welfare and security of Europe and southeastern Europe as well, said Turkey’s prime minister on Thursday.
"Turkey's fight against terrorism in the Middle East, in Syria and in Iraq not only secures our own citizen, it also prevents an influx of refugees into the Balkans and in Europe as well as terrorist activities," Binali Yildirim told a joint press conference with Denis Zvizdic, chairman of the Council of Ministers in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“In this respect, we want our European friends to be much more involved in this struggle of our country. This visit is undoubtedly an important opportunity for further developing our relations with friendly Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Yildirim added that Turkey's banner economic growth of 7.4 percent in 2017 was no shock.
"No surprise for us. We already have projects for sustainable growth in 2018. This is the highest growth rate in worldwide, including 20 advanced countries.”
He added: “Turkey already has for a sustainable, stable and medium-term plan for 2018. Growth and employment will continue."
On the situation in the Balkans, Yildirim said: "Stability and confidence in the Balkans, in fact, means security in Europe, security in the Middle East. From that point of view, we know that there’s a great responsibility for peace in all the countries of the region to preserve stability. In this context, we’re striving to develop friendly relations with all other countries, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina," said Yildirim.
Zivizdic also touted Bosnia-Herzegovina’s strong economic ties with Turkey.
"We’re certainly continuing our economic cooperation in terms of significantly attracting new Turkish investments. Turkey has always been among Bosnia and Herzegovina’s top 10 trade partners and among its 10 biggest investors.
“The bilateral trade volume over the past year was 1.2 billion convertible marks [$737 million] with a growth trend, and we have the potential to raise it to 2 billion convertible marks [$1.23 billion] by the end of 2019. With a special focus on agricultural products," said Zvizdic.
The Turkish PM also held a tete-a-tete meeting with the Bosniak member of the Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic. The meeting was closed to press.
Yildirim later addressed students and scholars at the International University of Sarajevo.
On Turkey's and Bosnia's bids to join the EU, Yildirim said that both countries should become members but at the same time "protect their own values".
"Turkey wants to join the European Union but does not want to do it at all costs. We may become members of the European Union by protecting our values. If they tell us to 'give up' on that, then such a union would not benefit us," said Yildirim.
"We are faced with this question from time to time: 'Is Turkey European or Asian?', which is an unnecessary question. Turkey is where Europe and Asia meet; where, throughout the history, civilizations have met. For centuries, Turkey has served as a country that has ended conflicts between civilizations, and bonded different religions, beliefs, cultures with each other," said Yildirim.
The second day of Yildirim's visit will start with a meeting with Husein Kavazovic, the top mufti in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Yildirim will also meet with Bosnian journalists and pay a visit to the gravesite of Bosnia's first president, Alija Izetbegovic, who led the country to independence.
After visiting the Srebrenica Commemoration Museum and Sarajevo War Tunnel, Yildirim will leave for Ankara.
Yildirim is traveling with a delegation that includes Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, and Transportation, Maritime and Communications Minister Ahmet Arslan.