Bulgaria hands Israel unexpected rebuff over Palestinian bid

Date: 7/7/2011

By Nikolay Doychinov | AFP – Thu, 7 Jul, 2011

Israel suffered an unexpected rebuff from close ally Bulgaria Thursday when it failed to get its immediate backing against a planned Palestinian bid for statehood in September.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been travelling around European capitals to drum up support against the Palestinian bid at the United Nations, and has already received assurances from EU countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Bulgaria's neighbour Romania.

But Bulgarian Prime Minister Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, whose country has had close ties with Israel ever since Bulgaria saved its Jewish population from the Nazi camps in World War II, and who was widely expected to back Israel, remained noncommittal after a meeting between the two leaders on Thursday.

"You will see when the vote comes," Borisov said, when asked how Bulgaria would vote on the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN's General Assembly.

"There's still time," he added at a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart, noting the Palestinians had not yet tabled the statehood bid.

Clearly expecting Bulgaria's support, Netanyahu had earlier praised the "spirit of great familiarity and friendship" between Borisov and himself, and the historical bond between their two countries.

Visits and bilateral meetings between Bulgaria and Israel have also increased greatly over the past two years.

But Borisov only said Bulgaria was still "conducting final talks within the EU on our position."

"We have always favoured peace talks and understanding."

"Our categorical stance is that all sides should go back to the negotiating table to reach the necessary agreements for establishing peace. This will also be our position in the UN," he said.

Following the collapse of direct peace talks with Israel last year, the Palestinians are looking to secure UN recognition for a Palestinian state along the frontiers that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, at a General Assembly meeting in New York in September.

Israel adamantly opposes such a move however, with Netanyahu embarking this week on a tour to convince European countries to vote against recognising a Palestinian state.


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