Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu have held talks on issues including potential co-operation in the energy sector, especially on gas transport, with Borissov saying that he saw great potential in gas fields in Israel.
“There is a huge future in this area,” Borissov told a joint news conference after talks with Netanyahu in the Israeli capital Jerusalem.
Earlier, Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister in charge of economic policy, Tomislav Donchev, said, “we see the countries of the Mediterannean region, in particular Israel, as potential suppliers of gas to Bulgaria and South Eastern Europe”.
Donchev, speaking after meeting the head of Israel’s National Economic Council, Professor Avi Simhon, said that Bulgaria and Israel have untapped potential for development of relations in the field of economy and energy, and ensuring energy security and diversification of energy resources in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Balkans is an integral part of achieving political and economic stability.
Donchev and Simhon agreed that achieving efficient energy co-operation in the region, including through the European Commission initiative for a Euro-Mediterranean platform for co-operation on gas, could serve as a basis for a comprehensive strengthening of relations among the countries of the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Balkans.
Borissov and Netanyahu, at their talks, agreed that in the past few years, Bulgarian-Israeli relations have made significant progress in the traditional spirit of mutual trust, friendship, co-operation and partnership, and gained an important strategic dimension, a Bulgarian government statement said.
Netanyahu said that it was a pleasure to welcome “my good friend” Boiko Borissov to Jerusalem, saying that their personal friendship was extremely close “and that between our nations goes back centuries, but particularly after the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews from the Holocaust”.
Bulgarian Jews had made an outstanding contribution to the development of Israel, Netanyahu said.
“We enjoy an advantage in this friendship, because Jews have made an extraordinary contribution to Bulgaria and, respectively, Bulgarian Jews have their own major contribution to our country’s development. I believe that we will be working for both countries’ prosperity on the basis of this personal friendship and this bridge built between the two countries,” he said.
“We will soon reduce customs duties and charges for Bulgarian goods, and I hope that Bulgarian imports will increase, especially of Bulgarian cheese,” he said.
Netanyahu said that Bulgaria and Israel had co-operated closely after the July 2012 terrorist attack at Bourgas Airport – in which five Israelis and a Bulgarian died in a blast that also took the life of the bearer of the bomb, subsequently found to have been linked to the military wing of Hezbollah – and the Israeli prime minister added that Bulgaria and Israel were on the same side in the battle against extremism and terrorism.
Borissov said that he and his counterpart spoke often on the phone on security issues. He described Netanyahu as an “extremely competent man, a textbook about what is happening in the region. He always shares with me what he knows and forecasts”.
The Bulgarian Prime Minister said that he attached great importance to attracting Israeli investments in the Bulgarian economy, including the priority technoligy sectors. Bulgaria also was interested in using the valuable experience of Israel in terms of opportunities for joint projects in agriculture, Borissov said.
Borissov said that it was appropriate to work for the convening of the first session of the Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Co-operation, which he said would further contribute to the identification of areas and projects for co-operation.
Borissov and Netanyahu discussed preparations for a joint meeting of the two countries’ governments, which would be the third successive such meeting. Plans are for it to be held in Bulgaria in the second half of 2016.
Bulgarian Prime Minister confirmed his country’s position that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should based on two states co-existing in peace and security.
Earlier, Borissov held talks with Palestinian authority prime minister Rami Hamdallah and president Mahmoud Abbas.
A memorandum on the establishment of a joint ministerial commission was signed, which Bulgarian Foreign Minister described as helpful to the enhancement of co-operation in areas including the economy, trade, agriculture and home affairs. A protocol on consultations between the foreign ministry of Bulgaria and that of the Palestinian authority was also signed.
Borissov said that Bulgaria supports all initiatives that could have a positive effect on the Middle East peace process and held that disputes should be resolved through direct bilateral talks.