By Talha Ozturk
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) - The governments of Turkey and Serbia on Wednesday signed a $285 million contract to build the Sarajevo-Belgrade Highway.
Turkey's Transport and Infrastructure Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan held a bilateral meeting as well as a meeting between delegations with his Serbian counterpart Zorana Mihajlovic in the capital Belgrade.
The two ministers discussed the highway project which will connect the capital cities of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The meetings and signing ceremony were also attended by Serbia's Deputy Premier Rasim Ljajic and Tanju Bilgic, Turkey's ambassador to Belgrade, Tasyapi company head Emrullah Turanli and President of the Public Enterprise Roads of Serbia Zoran Drobnjak.
Speaking at the ceremony, Ljajic said the new contract is a result of the successful trilateral mechanism of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Turkey.
"A few people believed that this highway project could be implemented, because it is a very expensive project. But today, the impossible became possible and the project was signed," said Ljajic.
Turhan said the contract plays an important role in developing the relations of the two countries and added: "This agreement signed here today is a very important beginning between two countries. Turkey gives great importance to Serbia for the region's stability."
He described the highway's role as a guarantee for peace in the region.
"Road infrastructure projects do not only contribute to a single country but to the entire region's industry, economy, tourism," he said. "In particular, the roads passing through Serbia play a cross-border role between Europe and Asia."
"The commercial developments on these roads will contribute to the development of social, economic life in the region and increase the welfare level. Moreover, the improvements would guarantee the peace in the region," Turhan added.
Mihajlovic, for her part, stressed that the two countries support the development of existing good relations and cooperation, and ensuring peace and stability in the region.
She said roads are not only roads, but also political and economic relations.
"Roads also mean stability. There is nothing more important than interconnection in the Western Balkans. Serbia has many neighbors, and we want to connect with all of them," said Mihajlovic.
At the ceremony, two more agreements were signed regarding the construction of the residences for security forces in the cities of Vranje and Nis.
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 road dispute 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 in Turkey between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Former Bosniak Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Bakir Izetbegovic.
Consequently, with Erdogan’s support, the proposals of both sides were accepted. An agreement was reached to build the highway via two different routes.