Bulgaria and Israel are small countries in regions of political turmoil, instability and transformation, Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said at a breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel Jerusalem on Tuesday.
The meeting, under the sponsorship of the World Jewish Congress, was hosted by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations.
Bulgaria sees Israel as a close ally and a factor for stability amid Middle East tensions, he said, adding that Israel needs geo-political partners and can count on Bulgaria to be a strategic partner. Outlining the principles for strategic alliance, Oresharski said it must be based on mutual trust, economic and trade relations, and people to people relationships.
Oresharski pointed to the Ukraine crisis and said both Russia and Ukraine had made mistakes.
The visiting prime minister expressed deep appreciation for Israel’s cooperation with Bulgaria in the investigation of the July 2012 terrorist incident in which a busload of Israeli tourists was targeted and the bus driver and five Israelis were killed and 32 people were wounded. He had already met with survivors of the bombing since his arrival on Monday.
Bulgaria’s partnership with Israel on matters of security will continue, he said, underscoring that he hoped that Bulgaria would be able to stand against terrorists in the future. He said he supported Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s proposal that a regional counterterrorist organization be established.
Oresharski said he was pleased with the exchange of high-level dignitaries and the government to government meetings, but that there was far greater potential in the economic sphere.
When Israel further develops its offshore fields, it will likely export natural gas on a large scale to South East Europe, he said.
He also saw room for more cooperation and trade in agriculture, medicine, information technology, communications, tourism and defense.
Bulgaria supports the decisions of the European Union with regard to Hezbollah and Hamas, he said, but believes in giving both a chance to change their policies. Bulgaria was reluctant to go beyond any policy of the EU in reference to terrorist organizations because it did not want to disrupt progress in the peace process, said Oresharski.
He voiced the hope that Palestinian society will recognize Israel as a Jewish state, respect agreements that have been reached with Israel, and find a way towards a two-state solution to the conflict.
When asked by The Jerusalem Post whether there was a time frame attached to giving a chance to Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, which were simultaneously being given a chance to do greater damage and create weapons of mass destruction, Orsharski was quick to declare that Bulgaria by no means supports Hamas or Hezbollah and will do everything to prevent them from penetrating Bulgarian territory.
He refrained, however, from any reference to Iran.
The prime minister, who has met with several Bulgarian expatriates during his visit, said he found it heart-warming that after 50 years in Israel, they still spoke Bulgarian, sang Bulgarian songs and loved and cherished their native country. “They are ideal diplomats for Bulgaria in Israel,” he said.
He noted that Bulgaria and Israel had last year commemorated the rescue of Bulgarian Jews from the Nazis. Bulgaria refused to surrender its Jews and has always treated the Jewish people with friendship and tolerance, he said.