Croatia and Iran should take advantage of the lifting of UN sanctions against Iran to strengthen their cooperation, notably in energy and transport, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in Tehran on Wednesday, adding that Croatia, because of its geographical position, could be Iran's gateway to the EU market.

The two presidents said they also talked about peace-building and stability in the Balkans and the Middle East, and underlined that the status of the Islamic community in Croatia could serve as an example not only in Europe, but globally.

"Croatia has historical and cultural points in common with Iran and, given its geographical position, can become a gateway for our relations with the European Union," Rouhani said after the talks.

Grabar-Kitarovic arrived in Iran on a three-day official visit accompanied by Economy Minister Tomislav Panenic, Enterprise Minister Darko Horvat, Defence Minister Josip Buljevic and more than 60 business people who hope to intensify economic relations with Iran, whose UN sanctions were lifted in January after it reached a nuclear deal with Western powers.

The two countries today signed agreements on economic cooperation and on cooperation between the chambers of commerce. An Iranian-Croatian Economic Forum was also held.

Grabar-Kitarovic said the emphasis of the visit was "on developing economic cooperation... I believe the economic forum and today's signing of cooperation agreements will provide an impetus both to trade and investments and to other kinds of doing business."

"We are aware of Iran's plans to modernise the transport and energy infrastructure and we believe there is enormous room for the participation and work of Croatian companies," she said, underlining projects in electrical energy and shipbuilding. "With its geostrategic position, Croatia can be a strategic point for goods from Iran for central and western Europe."

"Our relations in the past few years, given the sanctions that were imposed, were not satisfactory or on the right level, but with the president's arrival in Iran we decided to realise our agreements and expand our economic relations, notably in energy and transport," said Rouhani. "The arrival of such a big business delegation shows there is political will to elevate our relations."

He highlighted the recent celebration of the centenary of Islam's recognition as an official religion in Croatia. "We agreed that there is a need for dialogue between religions in order to achieve unity and cooperation. We believe that the arrival of Zagreb Mufti Aziz Hasanovic as part of the president's delegation is proof that there is respect for Muslims in Croatia. We consider that a model for relations with Muslims that other countries should follow."

Grabar-Kitarovic said, "We are extremely proud of our vibrant Islamic community in Croatia which is not only remarkably well-integrated into society, but is also an example of co-existence and mutual respect as well as respect for the Islamic community, both in Europe and worldwide."

The two presidents also talked about the building of international peace, security and stability, and the fight against terrorism. "Both sides confirmed resoluteness and the importance of the fight against terrorism and expressed interest in cooperation between Iran and the European Union," said Rouhani.

Grabar-Kitarovic said she "can't stress enough the key role Iran plays in this part of the world... On my behalf and on behalf of Croatia as a member of the European Union, I wish to encourage the efforts of Iran as well as other states in this region to reach peace and stability."

Grabar-Kitarovic's visit is the first direct meeting at the highest level between Croatia and Iran since the sanctions against Iran were lifted. Aside from Rouhani, she met with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. She is scheduled to meet with other top officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.

The Croatian delegation is among the first from Europe to visit Iran after the lifting of UN sanctions.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.