The talks between Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva and her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, who paid his first official visit to Bulgaria, mainly revolved around the deepening of cooperation between Bulgaria and Turkey in the fields of energy and trade; security issues and combating terrorism; the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as current issues on the European Union’s agenda.
After welcoming her Turkish counterpart, the Bulgarian Foreign Minister noted that “there is a friendship and stable cooperation between our two countries. This partnership and friendship are constantly expanding. It is based upon the principles of good neighborliness, trust and mutual respect. Turkey is our neighbor, a NATO ally and a very important partner in the fight against illegal immigration, terrorism and radicalization”.
Ekaterina Zaharieva expressed once again her condolences for the recent earthquake in eastern Turkey, restating Bulgaria’s aid offer to her counterpart that were first expressed just a few hours after the January 24 earthquake.
It was agreed to hold an intergovernmental meeting as soon as possible before the meetings of the Joint Committee on Economic Cooperation and the Joint Committee on outstanding issues. The two ministers stressed the excellent high-level communication as a prerequisite for harnessing the potential between the two countries.
Ekaterina Zaharieva underlined the good economic ties between Bulgaria and Turkey, noting the steady increase in trade. In 2018 it stood over 4 billion euros, while preliminary figures for 2019 show an increase of 11%. The Foreign Minister stressed the need to extend border control points, as intensive trade links also create an intense traffic flow that must be smoothly formed. As for transport links, Minister Cavusoglu announced that a passenger line between Burgas and Istanbul would open in June.
During the talks, the good cooperation in the field of tourism was also noted, where the idea by the Chairman of the Committee on Culture in the National Assembly Vezdi Rashidov for Bulgaria and Turkey to table a joint proposal for the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church in Istanbul, also known as Iron Church, to be included in the UNESCO world heritage list.
One of the highlights of the meeting was energy cooperation. Ekaterina Zaharieva noted that the construction of the BalkanStream would enhance cooperation between the two countries. “Turkey is also important for diversifying natural gas sources as it forms part of the southern gas corridor, and our country is directly linked to its development and the Greece-Bulgaria interconnection project”.
The two ministers also discussed Turkey’s contribution to the fight against immigration, with Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister pointing out that for Bulgaria the implementation of the EU-Turkey Joint Declaration of 18 March 2016 was vital to limiting the flow of migrants to the European Union.
“Bulgaria is not only Turkey’s neighbor – it is a friendly country and our co-operation serves as an example in the region”, Mevlut Cavusoglu noted. “When we work together, we can overcome all sorts of challenges, such as combating illegal immigration”.
He stressed the excellent co-operation between the two countries, expressing hope that trade would reach 10 billion euros. According to the Turkish Foreign Minister, Bulgaria and Turkey could become a center of energy security. The Turkish Minister thanked Bulgaria for its support during Turkey’s EU enlargement negotiations, while Ekaterina Zaharieva stressed that such support would continue, as well as the endorsement for the European course of the Western Balkan countries.
With regards to the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the two politicians agreed that the only solutions to the conflict lied at the negotiating table and that political dialogue in Syria and Libya was important. Ekaterina Zaharieva expressed hope that the agreement reached at the Berlin Summit would be implemented by all parties. /ibna