Bulgarian Foreign Minister Zaharieva, US Secretary of State Pompeo Reconfirm Bilateral Strategic Partnership
106 POLITICS - BULGARIA - U.S. - FOREIGN MINISTER VISIT
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Zaharieva,
US Secretary of State Pompeo
Reconfirm Bilateral Strategic Partnership
Washington, D.C., November 6 (BTA) - Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva conferred here on Monday with US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Zaharieva's Ministry said in a press release.
They discussed the importance of bilateral relations and reconfirmed their strategic nature.
"This was an excellent opportunity to reconfirm our strategic partnership and the excellent contacts between the two countries," Zaharieva commented to journalists, emerging from the meeting.
The Deputy PM is visiting Washington at Pompeo's invitation.
Bulgaria's inclusion in the US Visa Waiver Program figured high on the agenda.
"The US will continue to assist our country in the process of reducing the number of US visa refusals to Bulgarian citizens, which is one of the requirements for inclusion in the Program," Zaharieva said.
"Certainly, we, too, are making efforts, in close cooperation with the US Embassy in Sofia, to inform Bulgarian citizens of the eligibility conditions for obtaining a visa," she added.
The Deputy PM had also raised the issue of a conclusion of a social protection agreement.
"The US has signed social agreements with a number of European countries, but Bulgaria is not among them," she recalled. "Such an agreement would be of great help to the 400,000 Bulgarians who reside in the US. We are working hard on the matter and have substantially eased the procedures, but we now confirmed Bulgaria's desire to be added to the priority list of countries to be negotiated with on the conclusion of an agreement," she pointed out.
Secretary Pompeo had commended the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2018.
"I received thanks and congratulations on Bulgaria's support for our neighbours and friends in the Western Balkans. I expressed my conviction that the countries of the region which wish to join NATO and the EU belong there. We share similar views with the US on this issue," the Foreign Minister told the media.
The two chief diplomats also discussed strategic partnership in defence and Bulgaria's plans to modernize its armed forces.
Other topics included Bulgaria's efforts to diversify its energy sources and supply routes. "We talked about the [gas] interconnector with Greece and the LNG terminal at Alexandroupolis, as well as about our efforts to build the Balkan Gas Hub, which will result in competition of natural gas supply routes and sources," Zaharieva noted.
The two also considered the Middle East peace process. "We agreed that the situation in the Middle East is tense, and a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to be found . Mike Pompeo assured me that the US will present a plan for this before the end of the year," the guest said.
The US State Department said in a press release that Pompeo and Zaharieva also discussed global affairs such as Iran's ballistic missile program, the importance of maintaining sanctions on Russia, and their shared interest in advancing stability, security, and prosperity for the countries of the Western Balkans.
On Tuesday, the Deputy Prime Minister is scheduled to hold talks with President Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton, with International Republican Institute Executive Vice President Judy Van Rest, and with Robert Benjamin, Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe Programmes at the National Democratic Institute. LG