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03 July, 1997
Greece and Bulgaria confirmed yesterday the high-level of bilateral relations and vowed to further develop economic, political and cultural ties, following talks by visiting Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov with President Kostis Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
Mr. Stoyanov arrived in Athens yesterday for a two-day official visit, the first by a Bulgarian head of state to Athens since democratic reforms were launched in the neighboring country at the end of 1989.
Immediately after arrival, Mr. Stoyanov met for talks with Mr. Stephanopoulos.
Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Bulgarian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Stefan Tafrov later signed an agreement for the construction of the Kulata-Promahonas border bridge in the presence of Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mr. Stoyanov.
The talks between the Greek and Bulgarian presidents focused on bilateral relations, the situation in the Balkans and the greater region and Bulgaria's efforts to join Euro-Atlantic alliances.
From the very beginning Greece took a clear stand on Bulgaria's full membership in NATO and the European Union.
The two presidents reiterated the political will of Athens and Sofia to implement agreements concerning the management of the Nestos River's waters and the opening of three new border posts.
They also expressed their belief that the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline should proceed at the earliest, since this would be to the benefit of the three countries directly involved, namely, Russia, Bulgaria and Greece. Mr. Stephanopoulos stressed that Mr. Stoyanov's visit to Greece would facilitate progress in relations between the two Balkan neighbors which, he added, were already at a very good level.
He said that Bulgaria's accession to NATO and the European Union would help consolidate peace and stability in the region and show that the Balkans could be part of the Community and contribute to the economic development and integration of Europe.
Mr. Stephanopoulos said there was great margin for developing even closer economic relations and increasing exchanges between the two countries, noting that Greek-Bulgarian relations could serve as an example of cooperation and friendship for all the countries of the region. Mr. Stoyanov expressed gratitude for the understanding shown by Greece for Bulgaria's problems, particularly Athens' support for the reform program being implemented by Sofia.
"Our relations were always excellent, but after 1989 things changed, as did objectives. And we shall need the help of our friends regarding our accession to NATO and the EU," Mr. Stoyanov said, adding that the reform program could make Bulgaria "more attractive" to its neighbors.
Mr. Stoyanov also stressed the need for an "intensification" of Greek-Bulgarian talks and referred to the possibility of cooperation between the two countries "on major joint plans" as well as in the cultural sector.
Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Stoyanov said the domestic situation in Bulgaria and Greece had never affected relations between the two neighbors.
"Particularly now that the political situation in both countries is completely normal," he added.
Asked about the possible threat posed by the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Mr. Stoyanov said that the way in which the plant was now operating created "no problem," maintaining that "the dangers (posed by Kozloduy) are no more than those existing at similar plants in other countries".
Today, the Bulgarian president will be in Thessaloniki and on the next day, the final day of the visit, he will visit the monastic community of Mount Athos.
Before traveling to Thessaloniki, Mr. Stoyanov will confer with Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis.
Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline discussed by Simitis, Stoyanov
Prime Minister Costas Simitis and visiting Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov decided during a meeting yesterday afternoon to intensify talks regarding the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline.
Mr. Stoyanov admitted that talks regarding the construction of the pipeline had not yet reached an advanced stage.
However, the two men agreed that talks should proceed at the earliest to the benefit of Greece, Russia and Bulgaria, which are the three countries directly involved, Mr. Stoyanov said.
He also expressed satisfaction at a standing Greek-Bulgarian agreement for the opening of three border posts.
Speaking to the press after talks with Mr. Simitis, the Bulgarian president said he was "extremely satisfied," describing his talks with the Greek government as "realistic."
Mr. Stoyanov said Bulgaria supported Greece's initiative for a Balkan summit in Crete in the autumn, as well as the Greek government's request for participation in the UN Security Council, describing it as a "matter of Balkan honor." He said Greek-Bulgarian relations constituted an example of Balkan and European cooperation, while encouraging more Greek investments to Bulgaria and the remaining Balkan countries.
Concluding, he said Greece was a guarantee to Bulgarian efforts for accession to NATO and European Union structures.
Source: Athens News Agency