Bulgaria and the U.S. Sign Agreement

Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed Friday the agreement for the location of US military bases on the territory of the Black Sea country. Bulgaria and the US reached an agreement on the defense cooperation accord, including the conditions of the shared use of several military facilities on Bulgarian territory, at the end of March.Rice was in Sofia for the informal NATO Foreign Ministers meeting. In her words the agreement would further develop the cooperation between Sofia and Washington, which, she claims, would improve economic relations. “We are very happy to sign this accord,” said Rice at the signing ceremony. “It will enhance our cooperation with Bulgaria and strengthen our ability to operate in the region.” “This accord is a successful step in strengthening the cooperation with the US and it will serve the interests of both countries,” said Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin. “It will enhance Bulgaria’s security.”

Under the agreement the US will be able to use three Bulgarian military bases – the Novo Selo range and the Bezmer both near Bulgaria’s border with Turkey, and the Graf Ignatievo airfield in central Bulgaria. US forces will also use a storage facility near Bulgaria’s port of Burgas. As many as 3,000 soldiers can be deployed on short rotation in Bulgaria, which at some point may overlap and reach 5,000. The first US troops will arrive in 2007 and 2008. The agreement, which will be valid for 10 years, must be ratified by Bulgaria’s parliament. It provides mechanisms for bilateral consultations over the actions of the US forces in Bulgaria. Washington will also inform Sofia about the actions of the US army that concern the bases in Bulgaria. The bases will remain Bulgarian property and will be jointly operated by the US and Bulgarian militaries.