Western Balkans among key themes of Bulgarian FM’s US trip

Western Balkans among key themes of Bulgarian FM’s US trip

The stability and European integration of the Western Balkans has been among key themes in Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov's seven-day working visit to the United States, which ends on May 4 2010. In talks with US deputy secretary of state James Steinberg, with General James Jones - adviser to US president Barack Obama on national security - and in a public lecture at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mladenov highlighted the stability of Western Balkans countries as an area of immediate foreign policy interest to Bulgaria. Meeting Jones, Mladenov also discussed the challenges in Afghanistan and Nato's new strategic concept. In talks with Helen Tauscher, US under-secretary of state for arms control and international security, Mladenov discussed Bulgaria's participation in missile defence, as well as Nato and issues of nuclear security. Delivering a public lecture at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mladenov outlined the new global security challenges associated not only with the advent of new direct threats, but also important new actors in the international arena, who adhered to differing value systems. He emphasised the shared responsibility of Bulgaria as a member of the European Union and of Nato and the need for productive interaction with US foreign policy, a Foreign Ministry media statement said. Mladenov, soon to depart of a road show tour of Western Balkans countries, expressed support for peaceful ethnic co-existence in Kosovo, for federal authority and institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and for the European prospects of Serbia. One of the first stops of Mladenov's Western Balkans tour will be Skopje, where he will again raise the issue of a bilateral agreement between Bulgaria and FYROM on good neighbourly relations. Meeting Philip Gordon, assistant secretary of the bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, Mladenov discussed co-operation between the EU and the US and the possible impact of the Greek crisis on South Eastern Europe. Mladenov had talks with congressman Joe Wilson, co-chair of the US house of representatives group for friendship with Bulgaria, and William Delahant, chairman of the foreign affairs committee's sub-committee on Europe, who reaffirmed their commitment to expand the US visa waiver programme but cautioned that there were divergent opinions in congress on the issue. On May 2, speaking in Washington to the Anti-Defamation League, Mladenov emphasised the strong links between Bulgaria and the League, based on shared values such as tolerance and respect for human rights. He said that Bulgaria's prevention during World War 2 of the deportation of Jews from its territory to Nazi death camps was not an act of heroism but a normal expression of humanity, and was the result of joint efforts by Bulgarian institutions, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and especially the people of Bulgaria. Mladenov expressed concern about the increasing trend of acts of anti-Semitism in Europe and called for a policy of zero tolerance of anti-Semitism. Not every criticism was a manifestation of anti-Semitism but disproportionate criticism of the country and demonisation of Israel brought forth historical comparisons, he said. He underlined Bulgaria's interest in peace and stability in the Middle East and the country's commitment to strengthening partnerships with countries in the region, while speaking out against the threat from Iran's nuclear programme given that country's calls for the destruction of Israel, and Iran's human rights violations. Earlier, Mladenov had talks with senator Richard Lugar, vice-chairman of the committee on foreign relations. During a discussion on the diversification of natural gas supplies, Lugar said that the Nabucco pipeline remained the best option to achieve the energy security of Bulgaria.

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