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Sec. Rice At Stara Planina Awards, Sofia, Bulgaria

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Presidency
Sofia, Bulgaria
July 9, 2008

Remarks at Stara Planina Awards Ceremony

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) Welcome to the Republic of Bulgaria president decree number 307. On the authority of Article 98, paragraph eight of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, I hereby decree as follows: Ms. Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State of the United States of America, is to be conferred the Order of Stara Planina, First Class, for her exceptional contribution to resolving the case involving the Bulgarian medics in the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and for her safe return to the Republic of Bulgaria, issued in Sofia on September 28th of the year 2007. Georgi Parvanov, President of the Republic. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT PARVANOV: (Via interpreter) Madame Secretary, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my honor to be able to perform my constitutional duty and to fulfill the portion of (inaudible) of Bulgaria to confer highest Bulgarian distinction upon the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Ms. Condoleezza Rice.

We all remember the case, and we're all fully aware that Madame Secretary Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State of the United States of America, has been instrumental and has an outstanding contribution to resolving this so high-profile case involving nationals of the Republic of Bulgaria. I remember full well my initial contacts with President Bush on the matter. He was on top of the issue from the start. He delegated to the Secretary of State the powers in order to work on resolving it, and on subsequent occasion that we had been together, we noted with satisfaction that there was progress being made on the issue.

Let me say it once again, this has been a clear case of international solidarity and we are deeply grateful to all our allies, the United States of America, the European Union, the nations of the Balkans, all our friends and partners. Of course Ladies and Gentlemen, it would be unfair, it would simplistic, it would be inaccurate, if we were to reduce reasons for this highest distinction being conferred to Secretary of State for one - to one simple case of international solidarity. This is yet another sign of another high assessment and appreciation for the relations between our two countries, which - I will say that again - are at their best in the centennial history of cooperation between Bulgaria and United States of America.

We have never had such a level of political dialogue between our two countries. President Bush was in Bulgaria. Every single Bulgarian head of state has been to the White House in recent years, and we're talking about high-level officials (inaudible). We have very positive results in the economic field and we have twofold (inaudible) exchange, also in (inaudible) as a result of the agreement of cooperation (inaudible).

I would like to note that other issues are being dealt with successfully as well, such as the visa issue, the visit of Prime Minister to the United States of America and today's talks with the Secretary with the Foreign Minister are bringing good news that a solution to this issue is getting closer and closer on the horizon. I was particularly happy two years ago to hear the assessment of President Bush of Bulgaria as a regional leader. Indeed, the Bulgarian expertise, the Bulgarian political role which is played by this country, is highly appreciated in the region of the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Caspian.

Once again, congratulations, Madame Secretary. (Applause.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President, for this extraordinary and high honor. I am really very, very honored and very touched and moved to be granted this honor by Bulgaria. I'm even more honored because I - it's my understanding that this honor is named for and remembered as a great mountain range. It speaks to the strength and the resolve of the Bulgarian people through many, many years of trial, some of them dark, but now perhaps stands to speak of a very bright future for Bulgaria.

And indeed, the present and the future of Bulgaria and the United States is one that is a partnership in NATO, in the transatlantic relationship, in the work that we do together globally in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the work that you do with leadership here in the region, in the Western Balkans, in the Caspian region, in the Caucasus. We are very proud to be your partner, and the American people have a good friend in the people of Bulgaria.

Our ties are growing in economic relations, as we look at this great city and the increases in American foreign investment. I know, Mr. President that would not be happening were it not for significant economic progress and progress for economic policies that are inviting that foreign investment. And I look forward to more increasing defense cooperation and, of course, energy cooperation, where Bulgaria is taking a leadership role.

I see my good friend, the Foreign Minister Ivaylo, very often in many places, and it simply speaks to the many times that Bulgaria and the United States find themselves working together to promote democracy, prosperity, and peace.

So again, to you and to your Minister and to the members of the Bulgarian Government, I want you to know how deeply honored I am. I am glad and pleased to have played a role in the release of your medics and the Palestinian doctors. I am - doctor - glad that they are home safe. It was indeed a terrible ordeal, but it is one that I am very glad that has ended. In humanitarian cases like this, the United States always tries to do everything that it can. In this case, we have worked with the Libyan authorities, but also with our good friends in Bulgaria, to achieve the result. Thank you very much for taking note of my role in that, but also in honoring me and honoring the great relationship between the United States and Bulgaria. (Applause.)

2008/T20-8
Released on July 9, 2008

ENDS

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