By Talha Ozturk, Kayhan Gul
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) - A Turkey-sponsored highway that will link the Serbian and Bosnian capitals will trigger economic welfare and political stability, Turkey's ambassador to Sarajevo said.
"When you strengthen infrastructure, more investment will be made," said Haldun Koc speaking to Anadolu Agency.
The trade volume between Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina has reached $700 million, up from $70 million in 2003. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has set a goal of $1 billion.
"How can we reach this goal? We should make the economy attractive, leading to attractive investment," he said, adding that the Sarajevo-Belgrade Highway is a win-win project in this regard.
Referring to the importance of the project for Turkey, Koc said that Turkey sees this project as a basic element for lasting peace and stability in the region.
"When you connect Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with an infrastructure project, you are actually creating a region that is working with each other more and more in an economical aspect, and such projects are the foundation for lasting peace and stability in the region," said Koc.
The Sarajevo-Belgrade Highway project was brought up more than two years ago, but it hit a snag when relevant institutions could not agree on a route.
The dispute on the route then brought 16 possible routes to the table.
While Serbia wanted the highway to run through eastern Bosnia, the Bosnian side wanted it to run through northeast Bosnia.
However, the dispute over the routes ended following a meeting between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Bosniak Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Bakir Izetbegovic and Erdogan in Turkey.
Consequently, with Erdogan’s support, the proposals of both sides have been accepted. An agreement has been reached to build the highway via two different routes.
The project will reportedly cost around €1.8 billion ($2.24 billion).
Last week, a senior delegation from the General Directorate of Highways visited Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
Tanju Bilgic, Ankara's ambassador to Belgrade, said the main reason Turkey supports the project is to strengthen relations between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
"This project will not only connect Belgrade and Sarajevo, it will also benefit the Sandzak region in southern Serbia," he added.