PM in Bulgaria: Sofia understands peace made through talks

Netanyahu ends visit with a strong indication that the friendly Bulgarian gov't won't support the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN in September.

July 8, 2011 01:50
3 minute read.
Netanyahu and Borisov

Netanyahu Borisov 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu left Sofia on Thursday without a public commitment that the friendly Bulgarian government would vote against the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN in September, but with a strong indication it would not support the move.

“I found understanding here that peace is made through negotiations, and not dictate,” Netanyahu said in Sofia before flying home. He said that Israel was progressing “step-by-step” in getting countries not to support the move.

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Although at a joint press conference, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov did not commit on how Bulgaria would vote in September, he said that the sides needed to return to negotiations.

Borisov said that there was still time before a potential vote on the matter at the UN in September, and that Bulgaria was in talks with the other EU countries about the issue. “Come September, you will see... there is time,” he said of how his country would vote.

Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem have said that if the issue does go to the General Assembly for a vote in September, there would likely be a split among the EU countries, with some voting to support the move, others voting with Israel against, and most of the countries abstaining. Jerusalem wants to get as many countries as possible to come out clearly against the move in advance of September, as have the US, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

Netanyahu arrived for a visit of less than 12 hours in Bulgaria from Romania, where senior government officials said it became clear to Netanyahu after talks with that country’s leaders that Romania would not vote for the Palestinian move. In Bucharest, however, it was also not clear whether Romania would vote against the matter, along with Israel, or abstain.

Netanyahu was met in Sofia by seven of his cabinet ministers, and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, for a joint government-to-government meeting with the Bulgarian cabinet.

During the visit, Netanyahu mentioned the Bulgarian refusal during the Holocaust to transport the country’s 50,000 Jews to the concentration camps, even though Bulgaria at the time was allied with Nazi Germany.

“Bulgaria is under-appreciated,” he told Reuters, likening its actions to Danish resistance against round-ups by the German occupiers. “It’s one of the more remarkable stories – perhaps the most remarkable story in terms of the number of people who participated, who stood up.”

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His Bulgarian host was gratified by the overture.

“I would like to thank the Israeli prime minister for sending a message from Sofia... to the world about what the Bulgarian people did during the times of Nazism to save the Bulgarian Jews,” Borisov told the news conference.

Three major cooperation agreements were signed on Thursday, providing for cooperation in agriculture, natural gas supplies for Bulgaria from large-scale Israeli deposits, and for the mutual protection of investments, according to the Bulgarian news agency Novinite.

“We wish to increase the Israeli investments in Bulgaria. I am not sure if the Israeli business community has discovered Bulgaria yet, and this is my personal mission – to introduce to them the opportunities that Bulgaria offers,” Novinite quoted Netanyahu as saying.

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