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Turkish diplomats say the tiny country of Bosnia and Herzegovina is one that must be carefully watched and FM Ahmet Davutoğlu is planning to bring together the foreign ministers of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the sidelines of the Istanbul summit of the Southeast European Cooperation Process, which starts Thursday

After intense diplomatic undertakings in the Caucasus and the Middle East, Turkey will next channel its energy toward stabilizing the Balkans.

The initiative led by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu comes at a fragile time of high tensions and more open challenges to the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement by national leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

While Turkish diplomats point to this tiny country as one that must be carefully watched in the upcoming period, Davutoğlu will bring the foreign ministers of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina together on the sidelines of the Istanbul summit for the Southeast European Cooperation Process that begins Thursday.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina could be the site of serious developments in the near future,” a senior Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

The March 2009 report of the International Crisis Group, an independent think tank, already warned tensions are running high and stability is deteriorating in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as Bosniaks and Serbs play a “zero-sum game to upset the Dayton settlement.”

Turkey is a member of the Peace Implementation Council that oversees the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement for the international community.

“Turkey’s proposal for a trilateral meeting has been welcomed by Bosnia and Herzegovina. Turkey is a country with political influence in the Balkans. At the meeting, future steps will be discussed in a friendly atmosphere,” the ambassador for Bosnia and Herzegovina to Turkey, Dragoljub Ljepoja, told the Daily News in an interview.

The Bosnian envoy, however, highlighted that there was no major problem facing his country, saying ways to improve relations would be discussed without elaborating further.

The “yes” vote to the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland last Friday raised hopes for future enlargement of the European Union that closely concerns the western Balkans as well as candidate country Turkey. European integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina is seen as a strong beacon for stability and prosperity.

“Turkey is a central country. We want to work in the same way like Mr. Davutoğlu says ‘zero problems with neighbors,’ so we want together to give our full support to the stability in the whole region,” Serbian Ambassador to Ankara Vladimir Curgus told the Daily News.

“The meeting in Istanbul must be seen as a part of this effort and provide the basis for future regular meetings between neighboring countries in the region to establish good relations. It is a positive initiative,” he said.

Future of OHR a Question

The future of the international governing body in Bosnia and Herzegovina, namely the mandate of the High Representative and his Office, or OHR, is a source of question.

OHR is an ad hoc international institution responsible for overseeing implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton accord.

The Bosnian ambassador said it was not yet clear if the OHR would remain open or its mandate would be ended and handed over to a Special Representative of the EU. He said the main task of the OHR was to make recommendations to overcome obstacles standing in the way of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s integration with Euro-Atlantic organizations.

Bosnia wants to establish friendly relations with countries in its neighborhood on its road toward Europe. Following the three-way talks in Istanbul, another meeting will be held in Sarajevo on Oct. 10-11 to discuss a reform package aimed at drawing Bosnia closer to the EU and NATO.

“After the war, the international community has taken responsibility in Bosnia and Herzegovina for its stability and progress. This is of course a long and difficult process. Serbia strongly supports the Dayton agreement because it is one of the guarantor countries,” said the Serbian ambassador.

“We have normal diplomatic relations [with Bosnia]. Yes, we have a lot of questions from the past we must solve but we do this through dialogue. We are not only neighbors, we used to have a life together for years, so we want to offer our good wishes to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the meaning that it has prosperity and will very soon be a member of the international European community,” he said.

Turkey’s active diplomacy in the Balkans will continue with President Abdullah Gül’s visit to Serbia on Oct. 25.

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Foreign Ministers Of Balkan Countries To Convene in Istanbul

The informal meeting of foreign ministers of South-East European Countries Process will begin in Istanbul on Friday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will host the two-day meeting.

As of 5 June 2009, the current Chairmanship-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process has been taken over by Turkey from Moldova.

Foreign Ministers and deputy prime ministers from participating countries --Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Croatia and Montenegro-- will attend the meeting. Regional Cooperation Council and EU Troika will also be represented at the meeting.

The initiative was launched in Sofia in July, 1996, during a meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of South-East European countries, which decided to start a long-term process of multilateral cooperation among participating states in the fields of strengthening stability, security and good-neighbourly relations; economic development;humanitarian, social and cultural issues; and justice, combat against organized crime, illicit drug and arms trafficking, and terrorism.

Bulgaria assumed the Chairmanship-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process in May 2007 and kept it until May 2008, when Moldova took over.

Meanwhile, newly elected Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will also take part at the meeting, sources said. Papandreou, who was sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday, will also be responsible for foreign affairs in his cabinet.

This will be Papandreou's first overseas visit after taking the office as prime minister.

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