UPDATES WITH DEFENSE MINISTER'S MEETING WITH PRESIDENT OF KOSOVO
By Sarp Ozer
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) – Turkey's defense minister was awarded honorary Bosnia and Herzegovina citizenship during an official visit to the city of Zenica on Tuesday.
Hulusi Akar Akar paid a visit to the EUFOR Task Force TAF Liaison and Monitoring Team House in Zenica to receive a briefing on the mission's activities.
After the visit, Akar met with families he knew in the city, where he served 25 years ago as a member of the Turkish Armed Forces.
At the end of the meeting, Akar was presented with an honorary citizenship certificate by the speaker of the Zenica Doboj Canton Parliament.
At the occasion, Akar expressed gratitude to the city and stated that Zenica is very important to them since "we spent very important and meaningful days here."
Turkey is very sensitive about Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said.
"We worked together willingly and intensively to improve social life and make daily life easier as soon as the cease-fire was signed in 1995," he said, referring to the Dayton Accords which ended the Bosnian War.
"We put a lot of time and work into it," he remarked, adding that Bosnians' well-being is equally important to the happiness of the Turkish people.
"Your happiness and security really concern us. We hope Bosnia and Herzegovina continues its development for stability and integrity. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole deserve to live happily. You have the right to live in comfort and peace after the serious hardships experienced in the past. We will continue to work together,” he vowed.
Later, Akar visited Zenica Turkish Park. He also had a souvenir photo taken in front of the Turkish Fountain, built by the Bosnia and Herzegovina Turkish Brigade Command in 1999, and a tree he planted during his visit to the city in 2014.
- Kosovo visit
Akar later proceeded to neighboring Kosovo, where he was welcomed with a military ceremony by his counterpart Armend Mehaj in the capital Pristina.
After a face-to-face meeting, Akar and Mehaj held a joint press conference.
"We had an extremely comprehensive, constructive. and positive meeting," Akar told reporters.
Akar said Turkey and Kosovo continue to cooperate in many areas, including economic and military-related issues.
"Our cooperation in the fields of defense, security, and the defense industry is growing every day," he added.
Stressing the importance of the fight against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey, Akar said: "This (group) may turn into a threat not only to our country but also to Kosovo."
Turkey has often stressed the international nature of the FETO terrorist threat.
FETO and its US-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 which left 251 people dead and 2,734 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
In March 2018, in cooperation with Kosovo intelligence, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) apprehended six men said to be in charge of getting FETO members out of Turkey to go to Europe and the US, alongside other illegal activities in the Balkans.
Akar also met with President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani and said that Turkey attaches importance to the peace and stability of Kosovo.
The Turkish defense minister also expressed "dissatisfaction" with Kosovo's move in March to open an embassy in Israel's flashpoint city of Jerusalem.