The occupied Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija is embroiled in a scandal over the presence of members of the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO). Both the state of Albania and occupied Kosovo and Metohija have become notorious for housing loyalists of the terror group led by the US based extremist cleric Fethullah Gulen, a man wanted on charges of terrorism in Turkey. While six alleged FETO members were extradited to Turkey by security officials in the occupied territory, the premier of the occupier regime in Kosovo and Metohija, Ramush Haradinaj has fired interior minister Flamur Sefaj and intelligence chief Driton Gashi over their apparent cooperation with Ankara regarding the six extraditions.
Turkey and Serbia are historic enemies dating back centuries, but just as many other traditional alliances are shifting, so too are those in the Balkans. In October of 2017, Turkey’s President Erdogan received a warm welcome in Belgrade, while he and other Turkish officials continue to slam the presence of the FETO in Albania and occupied Kosovo and Metohija.
To the regret of many Serbian citizens, Turkey joined the US in recognising “Kosovo” as a state in 2008. Since then however, Turkey’s relationship with both the US and Albanian factions in the western Balkans has deteriorated and the FETO is one of the common threads which links the deterioration for both Ankara-Washington relations and Ankara-Tirana/Pristina relations.
At the same time, Serbia is looking for as many allies outside of the EU as possible in order to demonstrate attempts at multi-polarity, even as Belgrade marches slowly towards EU integration, much to the regret of many Serbian citizens and ironically to the disdain of some EU officials who continue to exhibit latent racist feelings towards Serbia. If Serbia were to create an enhanced security partnership with Turkey, in addition to expanding its historically fraternal relationship with Russia, Serbia would help to confuse international observers who wrongly paint Serbia as having only one friend (Russia) in the wider world. In reality, Serbia has friends throughout the Arab world, the Caucasus and of course Serbia and Yugoslavia used to have a staunch supporter in Libya prior to the illegal regime change which took place in the country in 2011.
If increasingly reluctant NATO member Turkey were to join the list of non-EU partners that Serbia could work with on a case-by-case basis, it would add a great deal of diversity to Serbia’s non-EU set of partners, thus strengthening Belgrade’s hand in future negotiations with Brussels and Berlin. At the same time, Serbia could work with Turkey to dislodge various terrorist elements from occupied Kosovo and Metohija to the benefit of the wider region.
While Turkey helping Serbia to recover its occupied territory is incredibly unrealistic, Turkey could challenge the US and its KLA, FETO and Albanian ultra-nationalist allies by presenting itself as a “responsible NATO partner” in the Balkans which contrasts with the recklessness of the United States in the region. Such a model is already being applied in Syria where Turkey has shown itself to be willing to cooperate with Russia and Iran in spite of disagreements with their Syrian partner, all the while adding to the chorus of anti-US feeling in the region, thus isolating America from any potential state allies in the northern half of the Middle East (e.g. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey). Thus, while Turkey will not help Serbia to directly recover its occupied territory, Turkey could help to re-establish a dialogue on the fact that Serbia is able to work with international partners to stabilise the region while the US and its Albanian and FETO proxies are doing the opposite.
Furthermore, Turkey has already shown itself to be an opponent of Albanian radicalism elsewhere in the Balkans. Turkey’s enmity towards Greece has predictably led Ankara to take Skopje’s side in the infamous naming dispute with Athens. While this is a clear example of Turkey opposing anything Hellenic, it is also an example of Turkey siding with a Slavic Orthodox Christian population against the wishes of Albanian radicals who seek to change the Macedonian name in-line with Greek wishes, not because they’re Hellenophiles (far from it), but because they see it as an opportunity to further weaken the character of the small Balkan nation and thus prepare it for a violent Albanianisation or even violent partition.
Thus, the precedent for Turkey taking up the cause of a Slavic Orthodox Balkan nation not only exists but it is occurring at this very moment. Thus, while Erdogan does not hide his desire to be seen as the leader of the wider Sunni Muslim post-Ottoman space, he is nevertheless willing to work with Orthodox Slavic peoples whoa opinion of the Ottoman Empire was negative, to put it mildly.
It will take a lot of soul searching before Serbia approaches Turkey about the FETO problem, but since the problem is occurring on legal Serbian territory, against the wishes of both Ankara and Belgrade, it would be foolish to pass up this opportunity to secure a partnership against terrorism, for stability, against the US and one that would demonstrate how patently irresponsible the occupier regime in Kosovo and Metohija always has been.