Serbian president seeks to boost trade ties with Israel

Serbian President Tadic Boric is looking to increase the 54 million Euros in bilateral trade between his country and Israel. Boric, who met on Tuesday with President Moshe Katsav, said he and his entourage intended to work to promote Israeli trade, investments and joint ventures in Serbia during the Prime Minister's Conference for Export and International Cooperation. He told reporters he expected significant increases in these areas over the next few years. Serbian economic relations with Israel have improved significantly since the democratization of Serbia and Montenegro five years ago, Boric said, adding that many Israeli companies are now investing in real estate and technology projects in his country. Israelis have invested some $400 million in real estate there. Also attending the meeting were Israel's ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro Yaffa Ben-Ari and her counterpart, Krinka Vidakovic-Petrov. The two women were asked by their respective presidents to intensify bilateral relations at all levels. The ambassadors complained of bureaucratic problems, which seemed to be somewhat more difficult to overcome in Serbia than in Israel, though Ben-Ari said that Serbia has enacted a number of economic laws that will make the country more open and attractive to overseas investors. Speaking of their respective regional troubles, Katsav told Boric that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas was the right man at this time in history and that he could think of no one else in the Palestinian leadership who could replace him. But he spoke with reservation, adding that he still was not sure that Abbas had the capacity to implement his own policies. Recent developments, said Katsav, did not leave much room for optimism. Boric, meanwhile, advocated an anti-fragmentation policy in his own region, warning of its dangers, including the vulnerability it creates in the face of hostile threats. He said he would much prefer to see a completely united front between Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.