PRESIDENTS AL-ASSAD/ PARVANOV CONFERENCE 

SOFIA, SANA_ President Bashar Al-Assad on Tuesday held talks with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov at the Presidential Palace in Sofia. 

Presidents Al-Assad and Parvanov asserted the importance of re-launching the Syrian-Bulgarian relations with a future vision, laying down a strong base as to open prospects before economic and trade cooperation between both countries. 

Both Presidents also underscored the importance of linking the Arab region and the Balkans through networks of infrastructure for energy supply, railways, land and sea transport. 

President Al-Assad said that the talks with President Parvanov focused on setting a strong and solid strategy for bilateral relations to increase the trade volume between the two countries. 

In a joint press conference with the Bulgarian President following their talks, President Al-Assad said that talks also focused on ways to connect Bulgaria's important location on the Black Sea with Syria's important location on the Mediterranean and linking the two regions. 

President Al-Assad pointed out that the development of the Syrian-Turkish relation is moving towards establishing strategic projects, adding "Since Bulgaria is a neighbor of Turkey, there must be integration between the infrastructure sectors in Syria, Turkey and Bulgaria." 

President Al-Assad added that this integration covers the fields of oil, gas and electricity in addition to road, railway and maritime transportation.

 "We want to connect the Arab region with Southern and Eastern Europe through Turkey and Bulgaria," President Al-Assad said. 

President Al-Assad pointed out that his visit to Bulgaria and the talks with His Bulgarian Counterpart, Parvanov, aims to 'revive friendship relations and restore warmth to these relations' focusing on how to ' lay down a solid and strong strategy for these relations' leading to increasing 'trade exchange' between Syria and Bulgaria. 

President Al-Assad pointed out that he explained to president Parvanov Syria's continued stance, as ever, in supporting the peace process in the Middle East and that he encouraged Bulgaria to play the possible role as to push Israel towards moving forward in the peace process, particularly within the frame of the recent US initiative which was launched about two months ago. 

President Al-Assad thanked President Parvanov and the Bulgarian Government's stance supporting the accession of Syria to the Association Agreement with the European Union. 

In reply to a question, President Al-Assad said that ''the relation with the European Union is important for Syria, because the EU is from a geographical point a neighbor, and because it is capable of playing an important role in solving our problems,' referring to the presence of 'interaction' relations between the two regions, whether positive or negative, and that the crises in the Middle East can never remain 'isolated' and would be 'reflected directly on Europe.' 

President Al-Assad added that there was a 'leap' in the closeness of analysis between Syria and most of the EU Countries, saying that what remains for this relation is to develop, which is linked to how the EU presents itself politically at the international level, which, in turn, depends on European-European dialogue, on one side, and on European-US on the other side, and on European-Arab from another side. 

For his part, president Parvanov said he is confident that this effective political dialogue will become a strong motive to realize economic cooperation prospects and increase the trade volume, pointing out to the considerable opportunities for enhancing cooperation in the energy sector. 

For his part, the Bulgarian President Parvanov expressed satisfaction with the course of the talks, saying that "after a long break in our bilateral relations, these talks come as part of the very effective political dialogue our relation is witnessing on all levels recently". 

President Parvanov said the talks focused on the future of the bilateral relations and their prospects more than they did on the traditions of these relations. 

President Parvanov expressed confidence that this political dialogue will become a strong motive to realize economic cooperation prospects and increase the trade exchange, adding that the Bulgarian government supports the Bulgarian firms which expressed desire to invest in the fields of trade, transportation and construction in Syria. 

The Bulgarian President affirmed that the two sides are in agreement concerning the good potentials for developing good cooperation in the field of energy, especially that Bulgaria is building its second electronuclear station and it will soon have the capability to export electricity to Syria. 

"Bulgaria and Syria are holding talks with their partners in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Caspian and Black Sea States to solve issues related to energy supplies such as oil and gas," he added. 

President Parvanov hoped that the economy officials in the two countries will be able to find greater potentials for cooperation in this sector. 

He added that the talks also tackled the role Bulgaria can play, as a member of the European Union, to help in formulating the European policy concerning the peace process in the Middle East. 

He pointed out that he stressed, in an interview with the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) a few days ago, Bulgaria's support to the Syrian legitimate demands concerning the Golan, and appreciation of Syria's positive role in the peace process. 

The Bulgarian President said the talks tackled as well ways of reactivating and reviving the negotiating process between the EU and Syria in order to establish partnership relations, as the EU is about to discuss this issue. 

President Parvanov said that Bulgaria will be one of the active and key countries in shaping the EU's stance concerning Syria and the negotiation process with it. 

Later on, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov and his wife held a dinner banquet in honor of President Bashar al-Assad and Mrs. Asma al-Assad, attended by members of the Syrian and Bulgarian official delegations and a number of high-ranking officials in the friendly Republic of Bulgaria. 

 In his speech at the banquet, President al-Assad expressed happiness over his visit to the friendly country of Bulgaria which has solid historical relations with Syria dating back to more than half a century, throughout which the two countries have succeeded in laying down solid foundations for a fruitful and constructive cooperation in various aspects of life. 

 "Our two countries are located in one geo-strategic region due to the geographical proximity and the common interests," said President al-Assad, pointing out that Syria gives great attention to establishing a regional cooperation of which Bulgaria could be a natural part. 

 President al-Assad pointed out that the economic projects which have a regional dimension, particularly in the transport and energy fields, are not less important, and are sometimes more important than what could be achieved on the bilateral level. 

 "The cooperation and prosperity aspired by our peoples will still be unattainable as long as tension and instability continue in the Middle East due to Israel's continued rejection of the land-for-peace principle and the UN resolutions which stipulate for restoring the occupied Arab territories to their legitimate owners and establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, as well as for guaranteeing the Palestinian refugees' right to return and ending the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan and the Lebanese territories," President al-Assad said. 

 "We are as much committed to peace as to our rights, and we believe that peace cannot be solid and enduring unless it is just and comprehensive…We call on Bulgaria and the European Union countries to play a more active role to push Israel to reach peace because this would be of a great service to the stability and development in the region and the world." 

 For his part, Bulgarian President considered that President al-Assad's visit is evidence of the strong standing Syrian-Bulgarian relations, stressing that the relations between the two countries' peoples "are the most important capital to be maintained in the future, serving as a vivid bridge between the cultural and spiritual heritage of Syria and Bulgaria throughout history." 

 President Parvanov stressed that Bulgaria highly values Syria's role in the Middle East peace process and considers that Syria has a very important position in the region, being a main factor of its stability. 

He pointed out that his country shares the view which says that making the Middle East a nuclear-weapon-free zone is of a great importance not just for the stability of the region but also the world peace. 

 President Parvanov considered that Syria occupies a strategic position among Bulgaria's priorities with regard to developing its relations with the Middle East countries, adding that he is certain that President al-Assad's visit will come out with tangible results for both countries, stressing that Syria will get the full support of Bulgaria for all the initiatives aimed at activating and upgrading bilateral cooperation, trade and cultural exchange and regional cooperation.