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Bulgaria Rebuffs Israel, Won’t Commit to Voting Against PA State

Bulgaria, usually considered an ally of Israel, does not commit to voting against the planned unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/8/2011, 5:09 AM / Last Update: 7/8/2011, 6:12 AM

Bulgaria, usually considered an ally of Israel, rebuffed it on Thursday when it would not commit to voting against the planned unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

AFP reported that Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who was widely expected to back Israel, remained noncommittal after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The report quoted Borisov as saying during a joint press conference with Netanyahu, “You will see when the vote comes,” when asked how Bulgaria would vote on the bid for a Palestinian state at the UN’s General Assembly in September.

He added that “there’s still time,” noting the PA had not yet tabled its statehood bid, and would only say Bulgaria was still “conducting final talks within the EU on our position.”

“We have always favored peace talks and understanding,” Borisov was quoted as saying. “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.”

Earlier, said the report, Netanyahu praised the “spirit of great familiarity and friendship” between Borisov and himself and the historical bond between their two countries.

Bulgaria is known for having refused to surrender the 50,000 Jews who were living in the country to the Nazi army during World War II, despite heavy pressure from Adolf Hitler. King Boris III of Bulgaria received a posthumous award for this last year.

The visits and bilateral meetings between Bulgaria and Israel have increased greatly over the past two years. Ten years ago, the two countries signed a free trade agreement.

But Bulgaria has also come under fire for its stance during World War II. While the country refused to hand Bulgaria’s Jews to Hitler’s army, it did allow the deportation of Jews from Thrace and Macedonia, which at that time were under Bulgarian rule.

Bulgaria has traditionally not spoken about this part of its history, and members of the Sephardic Jewish community have called on its government to reveal the truth of Bulgaria’s interaction with the Jews during the Holocaust.

Netanyahu’s visit to Bulgaria is part of a tour the Prime Minister has been making around European capitals to drum up support against the PA’s bid. On Wednesday, Netanyahu visited Romania, where Prime Minister Emil Boc said his country opposes the bid.