The foreign ministers of NATO members Montenegro and Turkey said relations between their two countries are good, but they vowed to further bolster economic and security ties as well as cooperation in areas such as education, culture, health care, and tourism.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on February 11 during a visit to Podgorica that 'Turkey and Montenegro have excellent political relations, and we want to improve our relations in every field.'
He said Ankara was pleased that major Turkish companies were increasingly looking to the Adriatic country to invest and that 'we support them.'
Turkey's top diplomat called Montenegro an important country for stability and peace in the Balkan region.
Both countries are NATO members -- Montenegro joined in 2017, while Turkey did so in 1952 -- and both have aspirations of joining the European Union, although Podgorica's EU effort is further along than Ankara's.
'We supported Montenegro in its NATO membership, and our cooperation in NATO and the defense sector will continue. Montenegro deserves EU membership, and if there will be no political barriers, we believe that Montenegro will be an EU member very soon,' Cavusoglu said.
Last month, Cavusoglu urged the EU to remove 'the artificial division' between the Western Balkans and Turkey in the bloc's enlargement policy and slammed Brussels' treatment of Ankara in a letter seen by RFE/RL.
'All countries should be treated on an equal footing,' he wrote in the letter to new EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell dated January 22.
'Aside from the fact that Turkey is a Balkan country by virtue of its history, culture, and geography, every candidate country should be judged on their own merits and under equal circumstances,' Cavusoglu wrote.
Turkey started EU accession talks in 2005. In recent years, those negotiations have come to a standstill with the bloc critical of Turkey's human rights and rule-of-law record.
Meanwhile, Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic thanked Turkey for agreeing to represent Montenegro in 23 countries where Podgorica had not yet established diplomatic missions, mainly in Africa and Asia .
Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara has stepped up its efforts to increase its clout in the Balkans, where many of the countries have historical and religious links with Turkey from centuries of Ottoman rule. About 20 percent of Montenegro's population is Muslim.
Cavusoglu said that 'the comfort of our Muslim brothers in Montenegro is also our comfort. Every Montenegrin Muslim has relatives in Turkey. Muslims and our kin societies are one of our foreign policy priorities.'
With reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, Anadolu, and Balkan Insight
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