By Talha Ozturk and Bojana Stojanovic
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) - The Sarajevo-Belgrade Highway Project will not only connect countries in the region but also people, Serbia's Minister of Construction, Transportation and Infrastructure said.
Zorana Mihajlovic commented while briefing Anadolu Agency on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Serbia on Oct. 7-8.
Mihajlovic emphasized that the project, in which Erdogan will take part in the groundbreaking ceremony, is of great importance.
"This project is not an ordinary highway project. This project is a ring that connects the entire region. We started the preparation of the ring. This project will connect not only the countries of the region but also the people. The official start will take place during Erdogan's visit," she said.
Mihajlovic said the first part of the highway’s construction is planned to last two-and-a-half years.
The project is being carried out by Turkish company Tasyapi and Serbian companies.
Mihajlovic pointed out that the roads mean security, political and economic stability and development.
"When the highway project is completed, the travel time will be reduced to two hours from five and six minimum. I really expect a lot of benefits. This project is not only about time, it is also a path of stronger ties between people," she said.
- New investments to be discussed with Turkey
Mihajlovic said her Turkish counterpart Mehmet Cahit Turhan will be among the guests during Erdogan's visit to Serbia and they will discuss new investment opportunities.
"There are many Turkish companies in Serbia and [their numbers] have risen considerably in the last few years. This is quite significant and important for us. Turkey is an important investor and gets along well with our people.
"There's also important cooperation in the area of infrastructure between Turkey and Serbia. Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Mehmet Cahit Turhan will also come during the visit. We will discuss new investment areas with him," said Mihajlovic.
- Regional stability
Mihajlovic said that Serbia's main focus is "regional stability" and that is going to be the highlight of Erdogan's visit.
"I am sure that President Erdogan will give the same message. Without good relations between Turkey and Serbia, Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina today, we would not be talking about such a huge project," said Mihajlovic.
In December 2018, Turkey’s Tasyapi signed a contract with the Serbian government for the design and construction of the first of two stretches of the highway.
Turkey sees the highway's role as a guarantor for peace in the region.
The project was brought up more than two years ago but hit a snag with 16 different routes proposed.
However, the dispute over the routes ended following a meeting in Turkey between Erdogan, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and former Bosniak Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Bakir Izetbegovic.
With Erdogan’s support, the proposals of both sides were accepted through building the highway via two different routes.
According to the latest information, the first route will extend through Sarajevo-Zenica-Tuzla-Brcko-Bijelina-Belgrade while the second route will pass through Sarajevo-Visegrad-Pozega-Belgrade.