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Hanin Ghaddar

Bulgarian FM to NOW: Lebanon’s cooperation ‘important’

Nikolay Mladenov

During Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati’s most recent visit to Bulgaria, did you discuss the possibility of Bulgaria accusing Hezbollah of the bombing?

When the Prime Minister visited the investigation was still at an early stage, our discussions were focused on the bilateral relations between the two countries. Yesterday the briefing of the Bulgarian Interior Minister focused on the conclusions to date. His statements were made after some parts of the findings were cleared for publication. There are a number of findings that are still classified. Based on what we have it is reasonable to say that the attack at Sarafovo Airport was planned, organized and executed by people who are affiliated with the military wing of Hezbollah. This statement is the result of months of intensive work with partners from three continents. I know that this statement has caused much apprehension among the Lebanese people, with whom we have traditionally had excellent relations. But it is in the interest of both countries and our citizens – no matter what religion or ethnic group they belong to, to stand up to terrorism together. Lebanon has seen the devastation of civil war, of occupation, of refugees and its people know how important justice is to peace. This is why we were particularly encouraged by the statements from Lebanese leaders responding to our request for cooperation in the next stage of the process. I spoke to Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour yesterday. We have already filed our first requests for judicial cooperation not just to Lebanon, but to Australia and Canada.

Will the European Union play an active role in looking for and arresting those accused of this crime?

Our investigative services cooperate fully with the colleagues throughout the European Union and also with EUROPOL, so yes the EU member states are our active partners in this. I believe that there are two things that are important now – firstly, cooperation with Lebanon and other countries on the next stage of the process; secondly, a discussion in the EU on how can we protect ourselves from similar attacks in the future.

Will this lead to the European Union placing Hezbollah on its terrorists list?

This is would be a decision that can only be taken by all 27 members states of the EU, it requires consensus. At this point we need to reflect on our findings, and discuss them with colleagues in the EU before we take the matter further ahead.

Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government. Will this accusation affect the relationship between Lebanon and Bulgaria?
 
It is not up to me or anyone else but the Lebanese people to say who should or should not be part of your government. Your government has managed to get the country through some very difficult times. The biggest threat to Lebanon is the situation in Syria right now. This why all of us in the EU are fully committed to working with the Lebanese authorities to mitigate the effect of the displaced Syrians and Palestinians. In this, the continuation of the National Dialogue is important, as well as resolving some of the outstanding social and economic needs, particularly in poorer areas in the north. As far as the attack at Sarafovo airport is concerned, I am convinced that we have a joint interest in getting to the bottom of this terrible tragedy. People from both countries want to travel freely, trade, study and engage in normal activities. Terrorism and violence are condemnable wherever they happen. When people go to the polls and choose whom to support they make that decision on the basis of platforms and commitments – how will services improve, how will the economy be managed, how will security be provided? These are the questions that matter.

 

Are the names of the accused going to be disclosed at some point?

At this stage, this is still part of the ongoing investigation.

 

Read this article in Arabic

Nikolay Mladenov (AFP)

"This statement is the result of months of intensive work with partners from three continents."