BELGRADE, March 20 (Reuters) - Serbia is negotiating a $400 million loan from Turkey’s Exim Bank to develop infrastructure it needs to spur investments and growth, Serbia’s trade minister said on Tuesday.
Serbia, which is seeking to join the European Union, wants to foster close ties with Turkey, and last October Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan pledged investments and support, in an apparent bid to expand influence in a region frustrated by the slow pace of talks to join the EU.
After meeting Turkey’s deputy prime minister Fikri Isik in Belgrade, Rasim Ljajic, Serbia’s trade minister, said Turkey’s Exim Bank had allocated a loan worth $400 million for various infrastructure projects.
“We are still negotiating conditions for the use of these funds and I am hoping ... these conditions would be favourable for us,” Ljajic told reporters.
Some 70 Turkish companies do business in Serbia and bilateral trade is expected to reach $1.2 billion this year.
Ljajic said he hoped parliaments of the two countries would soon ratify a 2017 free trade deal that would boost bilateral trade to around $2 billion.
Isik said Turkish companies want to participate in major infrastructure projects in the region, including a highway between Belgrade and Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo.
“We are making technical preparations for ... this project,” he said through an interpreter. (Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Mark Potter)