By Salman Siddiqui/Staff Reporter
A suitable solution to the Syrian conflict has to be found urgently as the crisis if allowed to fester would affect the whole region, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin said yesterday.
In an interview with Gulf Times, the visiting foreign minister revealed that there was a unanimity of views between Bulgaria and Qatar on a host of issues affecting the Middle East region.
He said he had an “excellent” meeting with Qatar’s Foreign Minister HE Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah yesterday and “both sides agreed to sign an agreement between the diplomatic institutes of ministries of foreign affairs soon”. He said both sides agreed to hold political consultations on a regular basis.
He described the Syrian conflict as a big wound in the Middle East. “We share that it’s high time to put an end to the conflict in Syria. The talks in Geneva may help in finding a solution but at the same time there should be a clear will on both sides on the table. If not then the international community should see seriously how to approach this conflict, but we simply can’t wait for years on empty discussions that are not leading anywhere. So, we have to be more proactive. We need peace in Syria,” he said.
He also saw positive developments in the Israeli-Palestinian talks and hoped for a final agreement soon. “The same goes for the Iranian nuclear programme and the progress through dialogue that has been achieved recently on that issue. All in all, we shared the opinion that there is now a chance to de-escalate the tensions in the Middle East.”
Vigenin also said Bulgaria intends to further intensify its political engagement with its “priority partner” Qatar in the coming weeks when the president and prime minister also arrive in Doha.
He said that President Rosen Asenov Plevneliev is planning to arrive in Qatar by mid-March, while the premier Plamen Vasilev Oresharski will visit by end of April this year during which a number of agreements are expected to be signed between the two countries. “I am glad that the relations between the two countries are improving day-by-day.”
About the recent flurry of high-level visits from Bulgaria that included a visit by the country’s finance minister last week, Vigenin said that actually Bulgaria had identified Qatar as its “priority partner” years ago.
“The intense political dialogue at the highest levels are aimed at proving that we are very serious about in taking the relationship between our two countries forward.
“We are interested in Qatari investments in Bulgaria, improved trade relations, business-to-business contacts, and also foreign policy co-operation and co-ordination.”
Speaking about his other high-level meetings, including HE the Prime Minister, he said that many ideas were shared between the two sides, including that of setting up a Qatari bank in Sophia to help Qatari investors.
Qatar Diar was also invited to see opportunities to invest in the real estate sector in Bulgaria. Other projects where the Qatari investors were invited to look for opportunities was the building of a road from the Turkish-Bulgarian border to the Bulgarian-Romanian border as part of a European corridor. Also, investments in agriculture and tourism are being sought.
The minister said that an agreement for co-operation between the science academies between the countries was also in the final stages.
He said that Bulgaria was still exploring the idea of building an LNG terminal in Greece that would in turn service the energy needs of other EU countries. “This terminal could then also bring Qatari gas in the future and it is an idea of interest for Qatar as well.”
He invited Qatar to join its experts-level meeting to be held next month in Sophia to explore the technical details of this project.
Despite the political contacts, the overall trade between the two countries was still relatively small. In 2011, the overall trade level was only eight million dollars. The minister said he realised that this level was far off the mark from its real potential.
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