Bulgaria, Israel confirm strategic bilateral relations

Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva on Thursday paid a visit to Israel, her first one there in her current official capacity, Zaharieva's Ministry said in a press release.

During a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, the two officials agreed on expanding the bilateral cooperation in all areas of mutual interest, including security, energy, tourism, trade and high technology.
Zaharieva said, quoted in the press release, that 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries. "In the course of these three decades Israel has remained Bulgaria's closest friend and strategic partner in the Middle East," she said.
The Bulgarian Foreign Minister went on to note the excellent political relations between Bulgaria and Israel, with no unresolved issues. However, Zaharieva said that the bilateral trade should increase.
The two-way commercial exchange in 2019 totalled $209m, growing by nearly 50 percent from the preceding year. In the first half of 2020, mainly on account of the coronavirus situation, the bilateral trade dropped by 3.6 percent year-on-year to $92m.
The two foreign ministers agreed the mixed commission for economic and trade cooperation to hold its first meeting, even by video conference, which is expected to give a boost to the economic ties and investments. Zaharieva singled out the IT sector, scientific research and energy as areas for cooperation.
Zaharieva and Ashkenazi signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation in energy between the two countries' energy ministries. The memorandum seeks to promote cooperation in the security of the energy infrastructure, in renewable energy, and the implementation of joint energy projects.
Zaharieva and Ashkenazi also discussed bilateral tourism. In 2019 Bulgaria was visited by more than 250,000 Israeli holiday makers. Ashkenazi accepted Zaharieva's invitation to visit Sofia and Plovdiv.
The two ministers stressed that the strategic relations between Bulgaria and the State of Israel rest on the deep historical roots between the two peoples during hardships.
Ashkenazi said that all Jews and the people of Israel will remember forever those who stood by them during the darkest period of history, especially in Europe. The Israeli Foreign Minister, whose father is a Bulgarian Jew from Plovdiv, referred to the saving of Bulgarian Jews from being sent to Nazi concentration camps during World War Two. Ashkenazi offered special thanks to the Bulgarian government for its efforts in the fight against anti-Semitism.
The two foreign ministers also discussed issues of international security, the fight against terrorism, and the situation in the Middle East.
Next, Zaharieva conferred with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The intensification of the economic relations topped the agenda of the meeting. Netanyahu relayed special greetings to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.
Zaharieva also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with whom she discussed the challenges before international security and the security in the Middle East, and the threats from the coronavirus pandemic.

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