Iran-Bulgaria: Great capacities for coop.

TEHRAN, Nov. 15 (MNA) – Taking a look at the commonalities between Iran and Bulgaria in a variety of aspects, signals that the two countries have great capacities for further enhancing ties.

It is the 124th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties between Tehran and Sofia and during these long years, the two countries have had friendly ties based on mutual respect.

Bulgaria, a country with a nearly 7 million population, has shared borders with Turkey, Greece, Romania, Serbia, and North Macedonia. Muslims consist some 10 percent of its population and the country can also be named as the gate of Islam to Europe given its position in the SE of the continent.

Bulgaria, in its history, has been influenced by some cultures, including that of Iran. Reports indicate that many Bulgarians are somehow familiar with Iranian literature and culture. Studying the Bulgarian language, one can also find some shared words that have been adopted from Persian such as the words for ‘winter’, ‘necklace’, and ‘spring’ among hundreds of other words.

Former Bulgarian Ambassador to Iran Christo Polendakov visiting Mehr News Agency HQ in July 2018

In the political realm, Tehran and Sofia have enjoyed a tension-less history of ties. Iran was the first country to recognize Bulgaria’s independence and in return, Bulgaria was the first Eastern European country to recognize the Islamic Republic in 1979.

Despite some ups and downs in relations, the two countries have always enjoyed friendly and respectful bilateral relations throughout this 124-year period, and there has never been any particular tension between them, Iranian ambassador to Bulgaria Mohammad Javad Rasouli told Bulgarian National Radio on Saturday, adding that at present, the relations between the two countries are being strengthened in all fields.

In his interview, the envoy stressed the ‘great potential’ for the cooperation of the two states in different fields such as economy, trade, and tourism, noting that collaboration in these areas has not progressed to the extent it has in political and cultural relations. Despite the surge in trade between the two countries this year compared to last year, there is still a significant gap to reach the desired level of economic exchanges between the two countries, according to the envoy.

High-ranking economic officials of Iran, Bulgaria meeting in Tehran in May 2018

Trade ties between the two countries experienced a high record of nearly $1 billion on annual basis between 1981 to 1991, however, in the decade after that, the level of trade decreased to around $10 million due to several reasons, according to IRNA. Between 2008 and 2014, the trade increased to some $60 million and after the signing of the JCPOA, the trade saw a 100% increase.

After the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA which followed by severe sanctions on the Iranian economy, something that has been described as ‘economic war’ and ‘economic terrorism’, Iran’s trade with other countries decreased and ties with Bulgaria was of no exception. Although, as time went on, the figure went up despite the sanctions; according to official statistics released by Bulgaria, trade between the two countries reached €60 in the first four months of 2020, registering a 100% increase as compared to the same period last year.

Iranian and Bulgarian officials have paid numerous visits to each other countries in the past several years, announcing the readiness and will to enhance the level of ties.

Rouhani's meeting with the Bulgarian envoy to Iran in late June

In late June, President Rouhani received the credentials of the new Bulgarian Ambassador to Iran Nikolina Kuneva who is familiar with the Persian language and culture and this may be a positive point in boosting the bilateral ties. “The will of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to develop all-out relationship and cooperation with Bulgaria,” Rouhani said in the meeting.

Rouhani emphasized the importance of developing economic ties and cooperation between the two countries especially in the field of transportation and stated, “in the current condition that spread of coronavirus pandemic has brought about many difficulties and restrictions for countries, Iran and Bulgaria should pursue and continue bilateral relations by fully observing health protocols and guidelines.”

Increasing cooperation with Bulgaria can pave the way for increased economic ties with other European countries as well.

Reporting by Mohammad Ali Haqshenas

IRN83885359/4957800

News Code 165907

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