Knesset speaker invites family of slain Bulgarian bus driver to visit

Meeting with Bulgarian president in Jerusalem, Peres praises Sofia for standing by the Jewish people during the Holocaust and today

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev (left) meets with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem Monday. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev (left) meets with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem Monday. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Sofia continues to work around the clock to find the perpetrators of a bombing that killed five Israelis and a local bus driver at the Burgas airport in July, Bulgaria’s president and foreign minister said Monday while on a visit to Jerusalem.

During their meeting, President Shimon Peres praised Bulgarian counterpart Rosen Plevneliev and Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov’s response to the terror attack three months ago and noted the two nations’ friendly relations. At another meeting, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin offered to bring the family of the bus driver slain in the bombing to Israel.

“Welcome to Israel and to its ancient capital, Jerusalem,” Peres said. “Bulgaria is a true friend of Israel. It worked to save the Jewish people 70 years ago in Europe [during the Holocaust] and stood by Israel following the terror attack in Burgas last July. I wish to thank you, your people and the government of Bulgaria for the support and aid that you gave to the injured.”

“Bulgarian institutions are working day and night to find the perpetrators and we won’t be silent until they’re caught,” Plevneliev said. “Together, Israel and Bulgaria will fight terror and evil.”

Israel has accused Iran and its proxy Hezbollah of being behind the July 18 attack, in which a bomb was detonated on a bus full of Israelis who had just landed in the Black Sea resort.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it the latest in a series of attacks and attempted attacks on Israeli and Jewish interests abroad backed by the Islamic Republic. His assessment, backed by defense officials, was later corroborated by senior figures in the American security community.

Bulgarian authorities released a computer-generated image of the bomber two weeks after the attack, and different hypotheses about the bomber’s nationality or possible accomplices were floated, but no arrests have been made and investigators are still not even sure whether the bombing was indeed a suicide attack or whether the bomb was detonated remotely.

During his meeting with Plevneliev and Mladenov, Rivlin invited the family of Mustafa Kyosev, the Bulgarian bus driver who was killed in the bombing, to visit Israel to show “the connection and shared fate” of the Jewish and Bulgarian people.

Kyosev, 36, who belonged to Bulgaria’s ethnically Turkish, Muslim minority — which constitutes 8 percent of the country’s 7 million people — was survived by his wife Emine and 10-year-old daughter.

“We recognize that the unequivocal condemnation of the suicide bombing by the [Bulgarian] president is not merely lip service, but a heartfelt statement,” Rivlin told the Bulgarian leaders. “We will expand the cooperation between our peoples in all fields and promote the relations between our two countries.”

Israel and Bulgaria have signed a number of accords aimed at boosting security cooperation between the countries since the terror attack. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivaylo Moskovski, signed a series of measures regarding collaboration on security issues, including an agreement to heighten security measures for Israeli visitors.

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