By Talha Ozturk
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) – Praising Turkey’s efforts for bilateral stability and regional relations, Serbia’s president said Turkey is a vital partner of his state.
"Turkey is one of the most important countries and partners for Serbia," President Aleksandar Vucic told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
Evaluating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s two-day visit to Serbia on Oct. 7-8, Vucic said the two leaders reiterated that both countries were enjoying advanced bilateral political relations.
Vucic emphasized that bilateral relations are based on mutual trust.
“Although we have diverging opinions at some points, we consult and negotiate with each other. Thanks to President Erdogan, bilateral stability and relations with other actors in the region have improved significantly," said Vucic.
– Trade volume is increasing
Serbia’s president said economic relations covered another significant part of Erdogan’s visit.
The trade volume between Turkey and Serbia was €800 million ($881.4 million) two years ago, Vucic said, while it is expected to reach €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) by the end of 2019.
"I always underline an issue: Only Turks have agreed to invest in rural areas of Serbia. Others have invested in cities or highways. Therefore, I would like to thank Turkish investors very much."
He said tripartite relations between Turkey, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were among the key part of Erdogan’s visit.
Vucic stated that Turkish president “has also helped stabilize relations between countries in the region” and has made everyone assume more responsibility.
Serbia will take more steps to attract more Turkish people for touristic and cultural purposes, he said.
"Therefore, it was important that we lay the foundations of the Belgrade-Sarajevo highway together. This project is very important for all of us. Without President Erdogan, I'm not sure how all this would have been solved. So, it was important that he visited Serbia," said Vucic.
– Groundbreaking of Belgrade-Sarajevo highway
Vucic also emphasized the importance of the highway project connecting the Serbian capital Belgrade with Sarajevo, which is supported by Turkey.
As part of his visit, Erdogan attended the groundbreaking of the highway.
"If we had built highways about 25-30 years ago, there would be peace, not disasters or wars. I say this especially for Bosnians and Serbs. You will see the benefits of this for both Bosnians, Serbs and Croats.
“We will see that we can build better highways and provide people with better living standards. When building a highway, it's not just about throwing asphalt on the ground. You also connect people who work and travel together. So people get closer. Then no one will be interested in creating any chaos, " said Vucic.
– Serbia's relations with Turkey, Russia, and China
The president said that he will do his best to protect his state, national interests and people.
"What does that mean? It means an economic and political benefit," said Vucic.
Also addressing Serbia’s path to European Union membership process, he said no one can guarantee that Serbia will become an EU member.
“We are on our way to the EU, but we make our own decisions over with whom we will cooperate. We want to cooperate with Turkey, China, Russia, and other countries,” Vucic said.
On Turkey-Serbia relations, the president said the two countries are “very good friends.”
“So I want to see more Turkish tourists, investors and assets in Serbia,” Vucic said.
Inviting Turkish people to Serbia, he told them: “Here you will feel at home.”
Vucic concluded the interview urging Turkish people to look through over last 15-20 year of their country.
“Then you decide who did a really good job for Turkey and Turkish people," said Vucic.