2018/03/07 – Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva discussed bilateral relations with the Arab countries during a working lunch Tuesday with their Sofia-based ambassadors held on the initiative of Palestinian Ambassador Ahmad al-Madbouh, who is dean of the diplomatic corps in Bulgaria, said the Foreign Ministry. Economic cooperation and the commercial exchange were among the highlights of the discussion.
Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva pointed out that Bulgaria’s trade with the countries in the region totals some 2 billion US dollars, which is too little considering the huge potential. She singled out several sectors – trade, engineering and investment, the energy sector and tourism – for the ample opportunities they offer for enhancing cooperation.
Zaharieva also said that Bulgaria is determined to work hard for restoring the traditionally strong relations with the Arab countries. She mentioned some symbolic visits in the recent months: « some of them of historic importance and others long overdue », to use her words. She said that a late-2017 visit to Saudi Arabia by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was without precedent, that a top-level visit to Kuwait is being prepared, that the Emir of Qatar arrives on a visit to Bulgaria on Thursday and that President Rumen Radev is going on a visit to Israel and Palestina in late March.
« Regardless of the tight schedule during the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council, we have been able to exchange visits with my counterparts of the Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and dates have been set for visits to Sofia by my Algerian counterpart in March and by myself in Oman on April 12. I hope that visits will be scheduled soon with Egypt and Morocco, » the Foreign Minister added.
The Bulgarian top diplomat also said that her country is working on opening new diplomatic missions and, like other European countries, it is considering reopening its diplomatic mission in Libya.
Zaharieva and the Arab ambassadors concurred that the agreements in areas including economy, tourism, education and culture, need to be updated.
The Foreign Minister noted that the Bulgarian membership of the EU offers additional opportunities for advancing relations with the Arab countries and that the southern neighbourhood policy is in the focus of Bulgaria as it holds the rotating EU Presidency.
The participants also discussed ongoing regional conflicts: Syria, Yemen and Libya, the prospects for the Middle East Peace Process, the challenges facing the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and the global impact caused by the these regional conflicts.
Zaharieva said that the lasting restoration of security and stability in the region needs to be a top priority in the current policy.
She pointed out that the victories in the fight against the so called Islamic State, is forcing its cells to migrate to neighbouring countries, Central Asia and Europe.
The working lunch was attended by the Ambassadors of Algeria, the Sudan, Kuwait, Qatar, Morocco, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Libya, and the charge d’affaires of Saudi Arabia and Iraq.