The West is following a "provocation-based policy" towards Russia, but Moscow should not be underestimated, Türkiye’s president said on Wednesday.
"I can clearly say that I do not find the attitude of the West (towards Russia) right. Because there is a West that follows a policy based on provocation," Erdogan told a news conference with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic in the capital Belgrade.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine this February, Türkiye has stressed it is following a “balanced” policy that has yielded dividends, such as the historic deal in Istanbul this July unblocking grain exports from Ukraine.
Erdogan added that it does not seem the Russia-Ukraine war will end "anytime soon," adding: "I say to those who underestimate Russia, you are doing it wrong. Russia is not a country that can be underestimated."
The Turkish president also reiterated Ankara’s balanced policy between Russia and Ukraine to help solve the crisis.
The Turkish policy of keeping lines of diplomacy open with Russia has also resulted in Türkiye hosting the highest-level meetings of officials from Moscow and Kyiv since the war begin.
During Erdogan’s visit – the second stop on a three-nation Balkan tour – Türkiye and Serbia signed seven agreements in such areas as the economy, industry, and technology, including a protocol allowing passport-free travel for nationals on both sides.
Ties with Serbia
Erdogan hailed the deal that enables citizens of both countries to travel with just national IDs, predicting that it would take "excellent" bilateral relations to the next level.
"After the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, Serbia will be the sixth country where it is possible to travel reciprocally using ID cards with chips," he said.
He said that in 2021 Türkiye and Serbia reached a bilateral trade volume of $2 billion, adding: "I believe that we will continue to work with the same determination to reach our common goal of $5 billion."
Vucic, for his part, welcomed Turkish investments in Serbia, saying that both countries aim to raise the bilateral trade volume.
He added that Serbia wants to buy Bayraktar drones, the acclaimed Turkish-made UAVs seen as pivotal in conflicts ranging from Karabakh to Ukraine.
Thanking President Erdogan for his "frankness" and the importance he attaches to the region, Vucic said, “We show respect and interest to Türkiye, make you feel at home here. I recommend that everyone should go to Türkiye. I think that everyone should see what this great country has achieved under Erdogan’s leadership.”
Tension between Serbia and Kosovo
About the recent tension between Serbia and Kosovo, Erdogan said: "We are very pleased that Serbia and Kosovo have reached an agreement on border crossings using IDs."
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, with most UN member states, including the US, UK, France, Germany, and Türkiye, recognizing it as a separate autonomous country from its neighbor.
Serbia continues to see Kosovo as its territory.
This summer Kosovo narrowly averted a crisis over license plates and ID cards having to bear markings of Kosovo, until a compromise was reached.
Calling for dialogue between the parties to solve the issues, Erdogan said positive momentum in the Balkans should continue because the Balkans "can no longer tolerate such troubles."
"We are ready to do our part to bring the parties together in a format that the three communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina agree upon," he added.
Vucic praised Erdogan and said: "Türkiye's constructive role maintaining stability in the region is very important."