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  • Borislav Ivanov

Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s NATO talks: Ukraine, New Danube bridge

Bulgaria's position on Ukraine and Russia is "completely consistent" with that of Nato and the European Union, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on December 17 at Nato headquarters in Brussels following a meeting with the alliance's Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg.

This is Petkov's first travel overseas as Prime Minister since being elected on December 13.

Petkov stated that Bulgaria intends to maintain ongoing dialogue and a positive approach toward Ukraine and Russia.

“We truly believe that a diplomatic and peaceful approach to potential conflicts is the best way to make progress. And I’m glad you confirmed that” he said to Stoltenberg.

Concerns were raised few weeks ago when Bulgarian President Roumen Radev, in whose caretaker ministry Petkov had served earlier this year, declared in an election debate that "Crimea is Russian."

Petkov, who asked Stoltenberg to visit Bulgaria, stated that he would welcome the chance for a more in-depth discussion at their next encounter.

“When it comes to investing in defence, in new military infrastructure, in modernisation, I think there is a lot to gain from such investments, especially if they are made with a smart and strategic approach. This would support Nato’s capabilities, but also Bulgaria’s economic development,” This would help Nato's capacities as well as Bulgaria's economic development, according to Petkov.

He stated that there may be a lot of synergy between military and civilian infrastructure, which could be exploited for military goals as well.

“Perhaps a second bridge to the one in Rousse over the Danube would be a very interesting point of strategic importance. In this sense, when we include this investment, I think we are meeting the target of two per cent of GDP expenditures on defence,” Petkov said.

Editor’s note: By a second bridge to the one in Rousse, Petkov probably meant to convey a second bridge over the Danube near Rousse and not overall, as there already is a second bridge, situated in Vidin.

Stoltenberg praised Bulgaria for its dedication to the Alliance, particularly its contributions to Nato's collective security in the Black Sea area.

He praised Bulgaria's efforts to promote stability in the Western Balkans.

Concerning Russia's massive military buildup in and around Ukraine, Stoltenberg stated, "Nato Allies have made clear that we call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, pursue diplomatic channels, and abide by its international commitments on transparency of military activities."

He emphasized Nato's commitment to taking "all necessary steps to safeguard the security and defense of all Nato Allies."

At the same time, Stoltenberg stated, "Allies made clear that we are ready for meaningful dialogue with Russia and we reiterate our long-standing invitation to Russia for a meeting of the Nato-Russia Council".

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