Ekaterina Zaharieva, Mike Pompeo Reconfirm Strategic Partnership Between Bulgaria, United States04 December 2018 News
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the positive development of relations between the two countries and reconfirmed their strategic character.
“This meeting provided an excellent opportunity for us to reconfirm our strategic partnership and the excellent contacts between the two countries,” Minister Zaharieva said in comments to reporters after the meeting. The Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and the US Secretary of State held talks in Washington where Minister Zaharieva is on a visit at the invitation of Mike Pompeo.
The main topics of the talks included the question of Bulgaria joining the US Visa Waiver Program. “The United States will continue to help our country in the process of reducing the number of denied US visas to Bulgarian nationals, which is one of the criteria for inclusion in the program, Minister Zaharieva said. “Of course, we too are making efforts by informing, together with the US Embassy in Sofia, the Bulgarian people about the requirements they should be able to meet in order to get a visa,” she added.
The Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister also raised the issue of the need for an agreement on social protection. “The United States has social agreements with a number of European countries but not with Bulgaria,” she recalled. “An agreement of this kind would be of great help to the 400,000 Bulgarians who live in the United States. We are working consistently on this issue and have significantly facilitated the procedures, and have now reiterated Bulgaria’s desire to be included in the list of countries that will be given a priority in the talks on concluding such an agreement,” the Minister said.
She also shared Secretary Pompeo’s high assessment of Bulgaria’s first Presidency of the Council of the EU.
“I received expressions of appreciation and congratulations for Bulgaria’s support to its neighbours and friends in the Western Balkans. I expressed our conviction that the place of those countries in the region that want it is indeed in NATO and the EU. We have similar views with the Unites States on this,” Minister Zaharieva told the reporters.
The two officials also discussed the strategic partnership in the area of defence and the plans for the modernization of the Bulgarian armed forces.
Other topics included Bulgaria’s efforts to diversify its energy sources and routes. “We spoke about the interconnector with Greece and the terminal for liquified natural gas near Alexandroupolis, and also about our efforts to build the Balkan gas hub that would bring competition to the natural gas deliveries in terms of routes and sources,” the minister said.
The two also discussed the Middle East peace process. “We agreed that the situation in the Middle East is tense and it is necessary to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mike Pompeo assured me that the United States will present a plan for this before the end of the year,” Minister Zaharieva said.
Earlier during the visit, she met members of the Bulgarian community in the capital Washington. She is yet to meet the US President’s National Security Advisor and member of his cabinet, John Bolton, the Executive Vice President of the International Republican Institute, Judy Van Rest, and Robert Benjamin, the Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe of the National Democratic Institute.