Muslim unity in Serbia is close, says foreign minister

Muslim unity in Serbia is close, says foreign minister

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News

Divided Muslim groups in Serbia’s Sandzhak region are very close to reaching an agreement, according to the Turkey’s foreign minister, who engaged in a secret mission within the knowledge of Serbian government to unify these rival groups.

“These are controversial issues that have long been discussed in Serbia, in Sandzhak. An overnight solution should not be expected, but we have observed that a climate for an agreement is emerging. We wish to solve it within the shortest time,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters Saturday in Belgrade where he had talks with President Boris Tadic and Foreign Minister Vuk Yeremic.

There are two main Islamic groups in Sandzhak region whose majority is made of Bosniak Muslims. Muammer Zukoric, who has close links with Grand Mufti of Bosnia Herzegovina, leads the Islamic Communities of Serbia, whereas his main rival Adem Zilkic leads the Islamic Communities in Serbia, backed by Belgrade. This division is feared to destabilize the region as well as the relationship between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Turkey’s initiative to end disagreement in the region has turned into a diplomatic action after the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, Mehmet Görmez, held several meetings with religious leaders in the Balkan region.

“We have to work patiently. Our work aims to find common ground on which these different views can come together,” Davutoğlu said.

Despite the initiative from Turkey, the Serbian government did not hesitate to accept it given the good relations between the two countries. Turkey’s action is interpreted as a good will mission in Belgrade.

“I hope this unity in Sandzhak will be possible by the power we take from the friendship between Turkey and Serbia. We will continue to work with Serbia. We are leaving Belgrade with positive impressions,” he said. “We are trying to channel the issue into a more positive field. These kinds of problems can be seen rooted issues, but a great portion of them are psychological.”

In the meantime, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selçuk Ünal said Turkey’s efforts in Sandzhak were appreciated by Serbia and that the initiative will continue to be pursued within Serbia’s demand and close contact and cooperation.