BELGRADE, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Serbia and Iran have stepped up efforts to intensify their economic cooperation. Talks on a free-trade agreement are ongoing to open significant business opportunities for companies of the two countries.
As the Serbia-Iran business forum was held here on Tuesday, Marko Cadez, president of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in his keynote speech that 70 Iranian and 40 Serbian businessmen applied to participate in the forum to discuss potential cooperation in areas of "energy, agriculture, construction, transport, trade, information technologies and others".
Masoud Khansari, vice president of the Iranian chamber of commerce, said that Iran is prepared to expand cooperation with Serbia through fairs, exchange of trade delegations, expert conferences and international exhibitions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the business forum also served as a way to gather opinions on the details of the free-trade agreement that the two countries plan to sign.
He said that the liberalization of visa regime was the first recent step towards better cooperation between Serbia and Iran. The second step will be the direct flight between Belgrade and Teheran which will be established on March 8. The third step, according to Zarif, will be the cooperation in banking.
Rasim Ljajic, Serbian minister of trade, tourism and telecommunications, confirmed that negotiations on the free-trade agreement was ongoing, saying that the payment system between the two countries will be established in the first half of 2018, which is, according to him, crucial for the future cooperation.
Ljajic suggested that "Iran should invest in Serbian economy" and invited businessmen to use Serbia as a hub for their investments in the region of the Western Balkans.
The trade between Serbia and Iran was worth 21.5 million U.S. dollars in 2017, the release of the Serbian chamber of commerce reads.