Syria Almost Broke Bulgaria Ties over Defense Minister's Missile Shield Blunder
A recent blunder of Bulgarian Defense Minister Anyu Angelov related to the US missile defense in Europe has led to Syria threatening to break its diplomatic relations with Bulgaria.
This highly problematic statement made by Angelov, together with two other blunders, are very likely to lead Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to replace him, reported the Trud Daily citing sources from the government and the ruling party GERB.
Speaking on private cable TV channel Pro.bg on June 3, 2010, Bulgaria's Defense Minister Anyu Angelov declared that the country must join the US missile shield in Europe because of the threats it faces from certain Middle Eastern countries.
“The threat comes not only from Iran, which clearly has medium-range missile technologies. But we also got information that Syria is developing such technologies as well,” Gen. Angelov declared largely suggesting that Syria might offensive plans as an enemy of Bulgaria.
The gaffe caused a diplomatic scandal as the Borisov Cabinet immediately received a diplomatic note from Damascus threatening to break off the bilateral ties; this necessitated an emergency secret visit of Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov to Syria, which was not announced to the media, says the report of the Trud Daily which is based on information provided by Foreign Ministry officials.
The diplomatic document sent by Syria itself is said to have been classified.
Thus, with the alleged secret visit, Mladenov visited Syria three times in the last 4-5 months, counting his two official visits in April together with PM Borisov, and end July, which were related with the settlement of the Syrian debt to Bulgaria.
Since Angelov took over the Defense Ministry post from current Foreign Minister Mladenov in January, there have been announcements that Bulgaria has had conversations with the United States for hosting elements of the US missile defense system in Europe.
According to analysts, Bulgaria is expected to host the system's radar, while the interceptor missiles are supposed to be stationed in Romania. The talks about the shield are expected to be finalized only after the NATO summit in Lisbon in November where the Alliance is expected to adopt the system as a NATO-wide project.
The US missile shield in Europe is widely advertised as a system to protect the European NATO members from attack from Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. Shortly after Angelov made his statements about the threat from Iran and Syria, he met with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Washington DC in June 2010.
In addition to this gaffe, Angelov is said to have infuriated Prime Minister Borisov with two other blunders – suggesting that Bulgaria might send a combat battalion to Afghanistan, and getting in a fight with President Georgi Parvanov over the appointment of the new head of Bulgaria's military intelligence.
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