Serbian envoy urges speedy probe over the killing of Red Star fan to avoid future negative incidents

Serbian envoy urges speedy probe over the killing of Red Star fan to avoid future negative incidents

Serkan Demirtaş ANKARA
Serbian envoy urges speedy probe over the killing of Red Star fan to avoid future negative incidents

Red Star Belgrade supporters hold a picture of Marko Ivkovic, stabbed to death in Istanbul during a protest in Belgrade on Nov. 22. Finding and punishing the perpetrators is ‘the most important element for the moment,’ Ambassador Vucetic told Hurriyet. AFP photo

A speedy investigation into the killing of a Serbian Red Star fan and punishing the perpetrators would be the most important element to normalizing ties between Serbia and Turkey, Serbian Ambassador to Turkey Danilo Vucetic has said.

”[Turkish officials] have assured that the pertinent agencies will work hard to investigate what happened. This is very good and something that we are expecting, as both the public and authorities: To do everything to clarify and to eventually find the perpetrators and punish them. I think it’s the most important element for the moment,” Vucetic told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Vucetic stressed that Turkey and Serbia were on a ”good track” in normalizing relations following an intervention by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan through a statement he made last year in Kosovo. “But unfortunately, this tragedy in Istanbul happened,” the ambassador said.

Marko Ivkovic, the 25-year-old Red Star fan, was stabbed to death on Nov. 21 in clashes with Galatasaray fans before the Euroleague basketball match. The incident caused uproar in Serbia and calls for revenge from some fan groups, and also created concerns about future matches between Turkish and Serbian teams. 

Revealing how the incident affected the atmosphere in Belgrade, Serbian Parliamentary Speaker Maja Goykovic postponed her scheduled visit to Ankara that was scheduled for Dec. 2, the Serbian envoy said, but emphasized that “it was just a postponement, not a cancelation.”

“We considered that the visit in such an atmosphere and its effects would remain in the shadow of this tragic incident,” he said.

“Turkish officials consider that it’s a criminal act and that competent Turkish agencies will investigate this act. And therefore it will not affect bilateral relations. They have their arguments, but the atmosphere prevailing in Belgrade caused the postponement of the [parliamentary speaker’s] visit. It’s very important to finalize the investigation. I hope this will allow our relations to get back on track,” Vucetic said.

The ambassador expressed his concerns over some news stories suggesting the Serbian fan was killed by his own friends in an in-house clash, saying “it was a big question ... You need to find results to stop such different interpretations of the incident.”

Turkish police 'neglect'

Problems caused by sports fans are not unique to Turkey or Serbia, the envoy stressed, saying the Serbian General-Consulate warned Turkish police to take measures before the Galatasaray-Red Star match because of the sensitivity and of the high risk.

“I have the impression that because of the visit of [U.S. Vice President Joe] Biden, the police forces had been heavily engaged in protecting that visit. Our conclusion is that they were not prepared [to protect the match] and, in a certain stance, neglected the dangerousness of the problem,” Vucetic said.

Appreciation of Turkish officials

Although the incident is tragic and needs to be clarified quickly, Vucetic expressed his appreciation to top Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Interior Minister Efkan Ala, who all phoned their counterparts to express condolences and solidarity, as well as to assure that the incident will be fully clarified. “These are gestures that show Turkey’s interest to preserve our relations,” he said.

“The atmosphere is not good, but we presume we can calm the situation down. Now after a certain period, the people will be familiar what has happened. But to calm down the situation in the Serbian society, it is necessary to have the results of the investigation,” he added. 

The welcoming of Partizan, another Serbian team, by the Turkish Basketball Federation and the Banvit team on Nov. 26 before the Euroleague match was positive, according to the ambassador.

“They welcomed Partizan with flowers in a sportive atmosphere. It was an excellent show of friendship and solidarity in such a moment,“ he said.

Olympiakos-Red Star campaign against Galatasaray?

When reminded that some Red Star fan groups are now eying the upcoming Euroleague match between Greece’s Olympiakos and Galatasaray on Dec. 18 for joint action to show their reaction against the Turkish team, ambassador Vucetic said the Greek and Serbian teams were very close and even have same colors, but stressed that the situation should be calmed down.

“We surely have to find way to confront this kind of incident. It’s evident that the death of this young man has provoked some unfortunate sentiments. I think we together have to confront this problem and do what is necessary to calm the situation down,” he said.