By Kayhan Gul
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's two-day visit to Serbia on October 7-8 heralded a new era in bilateral relations between Turkey and Serbia.
Erdogan led a large number of businesspeople and delegation consisting of 5 ministers during his visit.
The president had official talks with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic on the first day of the visit and the two countries signed nine new agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoU).
Erdogan and Vucic co-chaired the second meeting of Serbia-Turkey High-Level Cooperation Council before participating in a business forum.
On the second day of the visit, Erdogan participated in the Turkey-Bosnia and Herzegovina-Serbia Trilateral Summit in Belgrade.
Also, he attended the inauguration of various projects and groundbreaking ceremony of the Sarajevo-Belgrade Highway in Serbia’s Sremska Mitrovica.
The highway project is expected to play an important role in ensuring peace and stability in the Balkans and strengthening co-operation, not just investment in transport.
As Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said that since 1945, nothing has been done, as if it were an invisible handicap at the point of linking the cities of Sarajevo and Belgrade.
The project was realized with the initiative of Erdogan and aims to contribute to regional peace, increase bilateral trade and get to know people better.
- More than 800 Turkish companies in Serbia
Erdogan's visit also encourages business people who are considering investing in Serbia.Turkish investments in Serbia have reached significant levels in a short period of time.
The number of Turkish companies, which were 130 in 2015, has exceeded 800 today. The fact that these Turkish companies employ more than 8 thousand people in the country.
Turkish investments in Serbia was only $1 million in 2011. However, the investment today has reached $200 million
The target of $ 1 billion in trade volume which was set during Erdogan's previous visit to Serbia has been achieved in a short time.
This time, a new target of $ 2 billion for a short time and $ 5 billion in the long-term has been set.
Erdogan reiterated his call for "investment" to Turkish business people at the business forum organized within the scope of the visit and stressed that he especially wants the continuation of Turkish investments in Serbia.
- 9 new agreements
After the meeting of Serbia-Turkey High-Level Cooperation Council, the two countries have signed in the presence of Erdogan and Vucic.
They include the Security Cooperation Agreement, MoU on Cooperation in the Areas of Family and Social Protection, MoU on Cooperation in the Field of Industry and Technology, MoU on the Application of Joint Patrol Police Services, Military Framework Agreement, MoU on Reconstruction of Kasapcic Bridge, Cooperation Protocol on Science and Technology, MoU between Turkey's Small and Medium Industry Development Organization (KOSGEB) and Development Agency of the Serbia (RAS) and Mou on Postal Services were signed.
- A consulate general to be opened in Novi Pazar
During the visit it was also announced that Turkey will open a consulate general in Serbia's Novi Pazar city, a Muslim-majority town in the south of the country.
"Today, we are taking another historic step within the context of our bilateral relations. Serbia responded positively to Turkey's demand of opening a consulate general in Novi Pazar," Erdogan said.
Novi Pazar is the largest city in the Sandzak region of Serbia. It was established between 1459-1461 by Ishakoglu Isa Bey, the founder of Bosnia's capital Sarajevo and the capital of Macedonia, Skopje.
- Turkiye Maarif Foundation to open schools in Serbia
Erdogan said that they will develop cooperation in the field of education between the two countries.
"Turkey's Maarif Foundation began its work to establish schools in Serbia," said Erdogan.
Meanwhile, referring to the activities of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) in Serbia, Erdogan recalled that TIKA carried out 257 projects and activities in excess of $ 30 million across the country.
- Turkey-Bosnia and Herzegovina-Serbia Trilateral Summit
During the visit of Erdogan, Turkey-Bosnia and Herzegovina-Serbia Trilateral Summit was held first after six years.
Erdogan said the trilateral summit was "fruitful" and he announced that the next summit will be held in May next year.
Erdogan gathered leaders from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia around a table, listened to their problems and sought solutions, revealed the importance he attached to the Balkans.
* Talha Ozturk contributed to this report from Belgrade