The US Embassy in Bulgaria issued a statement on how the recent comment from US official Gabriel Escobar was received in Bulgaria. In a Voice of America interview, Escobar was cited as saying that “the US and the US Embassy in Sofia are working with the Bulgarian Government on the issues of respecting the rights of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria”. This caused outrage in Bulgaria, which denies even having a Macedonian minority and frequently prevents the registration and activities of Macedonian organizations there.

Escobar was not shown on the video commenting about the minority issue and the issue was raised by the VOA journalist – Escobar simply referred the journalist to the US Embassy. In its statement, the US Embassy says that “the interview caused some misunderstandings about the US policy in the region”.

The US Government has not raised the aforementioned minority issues before the Bulgarian Government. Our discussions with the Bulgarian Government are focused on our shared vision for a stronger, more prosperous and united Europe, through integrating all of its parts, including the Western Balkans, the Embassy said.

Bulgaria demands full protection of the minority rights of Bulgarians in Macedonia, and this is fast becoming its key condition for possibly lifting its veto against Macedonia’s EU accession talks. At the same time, it reacts angrily if Macedonia raises similar demands. President Stevo Pendarovski recently announced that he may meet with representatives of Macedonians from Bulgaria, but soon after the organizations said that his office is postponing the meeting, apparently under pressure from Bulgaria.