We are living at a time when relations between countries are based on self-interest or perceptions of security. Bosnia, with its limited resources and security problems, and working to heal the wounds of war, today needs relations based on friendship and loyalty.
When the Ottoman Empire withdrew from the Balkans, some Bosnians retired to Turkey with it. That was not in fact a break away or fragmentation; whether or not they have Bosnian origins, people in Turkey have always had a love for Bosnia in their hearts. These bonds today bind Turkey and Bosnia close together, even though they are a thousand kilometers apart.
The foreign policy pursued by Turkey and Bosnia has always been compatible and based on good intentions and mutual aid.
Turkey was one of the few countries to extend a helping hand to Bosnia in the war that so devastated Bosnia-Herzegovina. Since then, Turkey has been working to strengthen the economy of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and particularly to overcome the social problems caused by the war. Turkey continues to contribute to peacekeeping in Bosnia-Herzegovina through Turkish troops serving in the U.N. Protection Force (UNPROFOR), the Implementation Force (IFOR) and the Stabilization Force (SFOR) established in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in the European Force (EUFOR) since December 2004 and in NATO's Sarajevo command headquarters.
Turkish intelligence and monitoring teams attached to the EUFOR headquarters regularly hold meetings with senior Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian officials, irrespective of religion, language or ethnicity, keep their fingers on the public pulse and routinely patrol to ensure the preservation of peace.
During the 21 years that Turkish soldiers have been serving in Bosnia, in addition to their peacekeeping duties, they have completed some 400 projects in various spheres and have assisted some 80 schools in the country as a whole in one way or another. One can see the same warm and friendly approach in other areas of Turkish policy, too.
One of the most recent indications of that approach is that space has been made in the Turkish Meat and Milk Directorate for beef imported from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Turkish government made this 15,000-ton exception in order to support Bosnia-Herzegovina's agricultural sector, which had suffered from recent flooding.
It is not only that assistance that demonstrated the bond between Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The volume of trade between the two countries was $143.3 million in 2005, but that rose to $363.3 million by 2012. Turkish construction companies have completed a large number of projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina, from telecommunications infrastructure to hydroelectric power plants and bridges, hospitals and homes.
Turkey once again extended the hand of friendship following the flooding in Bosnia last spring. Emergency search and rescue materials prepared by the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Board (AFAD) - including sandbags, blankets, pumps and generators - were transferred to Sarajevo Airport by military transport planes.
An emergency assistance and underwater search and rescue team set up by the Human Rights and Freedoms (IHH) foundation also went to Bosnia-Herzegovina during the flooding.
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is another body that provided much assistance for Bosnia in wake of the floods. TIKA transferred humanitarian aid to Zeljezno Polje, Topcic Polje, Zepce, Begov Han, Doboj and Doboj Jug, which were the worst affected regions.
TIKA's relations with Bosnia are by no means limited to times of natural disasters. TIKA is engaged in a number of economic, commercial, social and cultural projects aimed at assisting development in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Some of these many projects which all ethnic components in Bosnia can benefit from include:
• The provision of urodynamic testing device for the Sarajevo University Clinical Center Pediatric Surgery Department,
• The provision of 300 beds, blankets and pillows and 600 sets of linens for a student hostel serving higher education students living outside Sarajevo,
• The construction of an additional building for Gorazde Hospital,
• Equipment support for the Banja Luka Preschool Education and Teaching Center to which 22 kindergartens serving 2,000 children in Banja Luka are affiliated,
• Agricultural machinery aid for a project intended to open up arable lands in Bijeljina and Janja on the Semberija Plain to agriculture,
• The rescue of damaged state archives in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
• Provision of training regarding the mutual sharing of experience with members of the Bosnia-Herzegovina security organization, development of a common awareness in the fight against crime and provision of on-site and applied training for the purpose of establishment of procedural conformity between the police forces of the two countries and
• Technical support for the digitalization process in Bosnia-Herzegovina Radio and Television.
These projects and support for Bosnia-Herzegovina by TIKA is an indication of how bilateral relations are based on very deep-rooted historical foundations. Turkey's interest in Bosnia-Herzegovina is not based on imperialist aims. Turkey desires the protection of a union and unity that were established with the greatest difficulty and that will prevent the possibility of any further conflict in Bosnia. All the various ethnic communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina must live together in peace and prosperity. Turkey regards this just as important as the stability, peace and well-being of its own citizens.
This hand of friendship extended by Ankara to Sarajevo will never abandon the Bosnian people under any circumstances.
Adnan Oktar's piece on The Balkan Chronicle: