|06SOFIA121||2006-01-26 14:40:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Sofia|
1. (C) SUMMARY. A negotiating team led by PM/SNA Senior
Advisor Ambassador Robert Loftis made substantial progress
toward concluding a combined supplemental Status of Forces
Agreement (SOFA) and Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with
the GOB during talks in Sofia January 18-20. This session
produced agreement on approximately 95% of the document's
language. The Bulgarians appear close to accepting the U.S.
proposal on criminal jurisdiction, leaving the articles on
the use of facilities and prepositioning of equipment as the
most important outstanding issues. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) During January 18-20 negotiations in Sofia, U.S. and
Bulgarian delegations reached substantive agreement on the
contents of a combined Status of Forces (SOFA) and Defense
Cooperation Agreement (DCA) document. In response to a
request by the Bulgarians in the last negotiating session
November 16-17, 2005 (reftel), the U.S. team agreed to
combine the SOFA and DCA into one document. In addition to
the provisions already settled in the previous round
(reftel), agreement was reached on the following Articles:
I. Scope and Purpose
II. Political Military Consultations and Cooperation
VI. Property Ownership
VII. Command and Functional Relations
VIII. Entry and Exit
XI. Determination of Criminal Jurisdiction in Official Duty
Cases (contingent on agreement on Article X)
XVI. Official Tax Exemptions
XVII. Personal Tax Exemptions
XIX. Personal Importation and Exportation
XXVII. Logistics Support
XXXIII. Implementation and Disputes
A team of U.S. experts visited Sofia December 14-17, 2005, to
hold technical discussions with their Bulgarian counterparts
on taxation, importation, exportation, contracting procedures
and related issues. This visit was helpful in reaching
agreement several areas listed above, particularly those
related to taxation, importation and military service
3. (C) Several key issues remain to be resolved. These
a. Criminal Jurisdiction: The U.S. team proposed that
Bulgaria exercise its sovereign discretion to waive its right
to exercise criminal jurisdiction, while retaining the right
to recall the waiver. The Bulgarians appear to be satisfied
with this arrangement, but they are waiting for final
approval from the Ministry of Justice.
b. Prepositioning of Defense Equipment, Supplies and
Materiel: In an effort to deflect criticism in the
Parliamentary ratification process, the lead Bulgarian
negotiator, Ambassador Lubomir Ivanov, sought assurances that
the U.S. would not station nuclear weapons in Bulgaria.
Ambassador Loftis agreed to study this question and respond
to Ivanov soon.
c. Use of Facilities: Ivanov said his government would need
time to consider the U.S. proposal, most likely at the Prime
Minister's level. He reiterated his concern that the final
language should be able to withstand a Constitutional Court
challenge during Parliamentary ratification. Ambassador
Loftis stressed that while the U.S. envisions consultations
with Bulgaria, the U.S. would not commit to prior
consultations or agree to give Bulgaria veto power over troop
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movements. Ambassador Ivanov responded that he understood
the U.S. point, but that the agreement should reflect that
the U.S. would give Bulgarian concerns "due consideration."
The Bulgarians also wanted to place a limit on the number of
U.S. troops that might be present at one time in Bulgaria,
which the U.S. agreed to consider.
4. (C) As negotiations enter the final critical stages, Post
and the MFA agreed in advance not to publicize this round.
Post has not detected any press coverage of last week's talks.
5. (SBU) As a next step, the U.S. proposes to provide drafts
of Annexes A and B prior to the next round of negotiations.
In addition, we will shortly propose dates to send a
technical team to provide the draft Implementing Arrangements
and to begin negotiations on the IAs. Finally, we propose to
send a civilian personnel technical expert to Sofia to
discuss labor provisions.
6. (C) COMMENT: After four sessions, we have come to the
critical juncture in these negotiations. For the Bulgarians,
the most difficult question is how to accept the U.S.
requirement to maximize freedom of movement without opening
themselves to challenges in the Constitutional Court, a
problem compounded by their legal and constitutional
requirement to spell out the conditions under which foreign
forces may be present on Bulgarian soil. It now falls to the
government leadership, and in particular the Socialists, to
explain to their base why this agreement, and an improved
military to military relationship with the United States,
advances Bulgarian interests.
7. (U) Ambassador Loftis has cleared this message.