Lebanon and Bulgaria agreed Friday to establish permanent direct flights between Beirut and Sofia, following Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil’s meeting with Bulgarian officials in Sofia to discuss relations between the two countries. Bassil met with Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, Speaker of the Bulgarian National Assembly Tsveta Karayancheva and his Bulgarian counterpart Ekaterina Zakharieva, according to a statement from the Lebanese Foreign Ministry.
During the meeting, the officials also agreed to form a joint committee to develop the two countries’ ties in commerce, agriculture, industry and technology. “We have many shared areas of interest that we have not explored sufficiently, and the time has come to do this in the fields of economy, tourism and culture,” Bassil said. “[Bulgaria offers] opportunities for investment and we provide high-quality services in medicine, engineering, law and banking,” he added.
The talks also touched on the issue of refugees. Zakharieva and Radev expressed support for the safe and dignified return of Syrian refugees to their home country – which Bassil has called for – with Radev further criticizing Europe for what he described as its failure on the issue.
The Bulgarian president also described Lebanon as a stabilizing factor in the Middle East, and said he was looking forward to his trip to Lebanon, slated for next week.
General Security announced earlier in March that over 170,000 Syrian refugees had returned to their country from Lebanon since December 2017. The number includes those who returned on their own as well as those who took part in voluntary trips organized by the agency.