Turkey denies it stopped Bosnian Serb leader from traveling to Armenia

Turkey denies it stopped Bosnian Serb leader from traveling to Armenia

Turkey denies it stopped Bosnian Serb leader from traveling to Armenia

Milorad Dodik (C), the president of the the Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska, stands next to Mayor of Srebrenica Camil Durakovic after laying flowers at the memorial cemetery in Potocari, near Srebrenica, on April 16. AFP photo

The Turkish capital has refuted claims suggesting Turkish authorities on April 22 stopped Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik’s plane from flying over its territory, preventing him from attending a ceremony to mark the centenary of the mass killings of Anatolian Armenians during World War I.

The allegations floated by Dodik’s cabinet “do not reflect reality,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said late on April 22.

“No request from diplomatic channels was conveyed for the plane carrying Mr. Dodik. No application was filed to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation either,” Tanju Bilgiç, the spokesperson for the ministry, said in a written statement. 

“On the other side, the required permission was timely given by our air traffic control units to the pilot of a private plane who asked for flying from Bulgaria to Yerevan. However, it is being understood this plane hasn’t used our airspace although it got the permission,” Bilgiç elaborated in the statement which came in the form of an answer to a journalist’s question.

“With any blocking on this issue being out of question, over-flight authorization required for Mr. Dodik’s transfer to Yerevan will naturally be given if it is requested,” the spokesperson concluded.

The plane carrying the president of Republika Srpska, a Serb-run entity of Bosnia, returned to his capital Banja Luka after spending four-and-a-half hours at an airport in eastern Bulgaria, waiting in vain for authorization to fly over Turkish territory, Dodik’s cabinet said in a statement released earlier on April 22.

“Although all authorizations for this flight had been initially obtained, Turkish authorities did not allow the flight over their territory,” said the statement.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flock to a monument in Yerevan dedicated to the memory of victims of the mass killings of Anatolian Armenians.

Ex-Soviet Armenia and the Armenian diaspora worldwide have battled for decades to get the World War I massacres at the hands of Ottoman forces between 1915 and 1917 recognized as a targeted genocide.

But Turkey rejects the term “genocide,” and says hundreds of thousands died on both sides as Ottoman forces battled Tsarist Russia.

French President Francois Hollande and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are among those expected to attend April 24’s ceremonies.

Earlier this month, Dodik submitted a declaration recognizing the killings as “genocide” to the Republika Srpska’s parliament. The legislative body will likely adopt the declaration in the coming days.

But Muslim Bosnian political leaders, who view Turkey as their main international ally, have criticized the initiative.

They have also condemned Dodik’s “hypocritical behavior” over his refusal to recognize that Bosnian Muslims were victims of genocide in Srebrenica at the end of the 1992-1995 inter-ethnic war, when Bosnian Serb forces massacred some 8,000 Muslim men and boys.