Kerry visits Bulgaria to discuss energy security, other issues

Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting Bulgaria for talks on issues including energy security and economic prosperity.

Kerry meets with Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev and Prime Minister Boiko Borissov in Sofia on Thursday.

On what will be Kerry’s first trip to Sofia as secretary of state, he will also meet separately with British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond. The foreign secretary is on a tour of the region.

On Wednesday, a senior State Department official said one issue that will be discussed is Bulgaria’s “significant” energy dependence, following Russia’s “abrupt” cancellation of the South Stream pipeline project last month.

The pipeline would have run under the Black Sea to southern and central Europe. Russia said it canceled the project because of European opposition.

The State Department official said the U.S. is working intensively to help Bulgaria find alternative energy supplies. The official said Bulgaria is “85 percent dependent on Russia for gas” and that one possible option involves Greece.

The official said Kerry and Bulgarian officials also could discuss Bulgaria’s arrest of Fritz-Joly Joachin, a French national who was caught trying to sneak into Turkey. Investigators think the French citizen has ties to at least one of the attackers involved in last week’s deadly rampage at the Paris office of the satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The State Department official said the probe into Joachin’s involvement and his possible extradition are “an issue between Sofia and Paris,” but added that Kerry would probably receive an update on the situation.

After Bulgaria, Kerry will travel to Paris, where he will pay his respects to victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.