Bulgaria won't lift veto on N. Macedonia's EU plans yet, wants EU guarantees - PM

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FILE PHOTO: Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov speaks during an interview with Reuters in Sofia

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria has set conditions for lifting its veto blocking North Macedonia's European Union accession talks and is working to see if Brussels can guarantee those terms are met, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Thursday.

Speaking after a meeting with EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, Petkov, whose government lost its majority in parliament on Wednesday, dismissed accusations from a former coalition ally that he was ready to lift Bulgaria's veto, disregarding national interests.

"Bulgaria has three clear conditions if we are to see progress on the issue with North Macedonia," Petkov told reporters. "We are working together to see if it would be possible for the EU to be a guarantor for these conditions."

Sofia is pushing for North Macedonia to pass constitutional guarantees protecting the rights of Bulgarians there as well as to make progress on some historical disputes.

Bulgaria refused in 2020 to approve the EU's membership negotiation framework for North Macedonia because of disputes over history and language.

Varhelyi, on his fourth visit to Bulgaria in the past six months, expressed frustration that there was still no solution to resolve the deadlock over North Macedonia's accession plans.

Bulgaria's EU and NATO allies are pushing for a deal that would reinforce Skopje's European perspective at the EU's next summit later this month and would help limit Russian influence in the Western Balkans amid the war in Ukraine.

"The fact that I keep coming back means there is still no solution, which is very frustrating," Varhelyi said.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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