In the Christmas and New Year atmosphere I am feeling most palpably nostalgic for the ancient streets of Old Jerusalem   

Dr. Ahmed Al Madbuh was born on November 15th, 1966 in Beirut City, Lebanon. After having being entitled to bachelor's degree in political science at the Univercity of Lebanon, Dr. Al Madbuh became a master in general medicine at the Medical University of Rostov-on-Don in Russia, PhD in "Urology" at the Moscow State Medical and Dental University. Later on he graduated in a diplomatic course at the Moscow Diplomatic Academy.

Before entering the diplomacy he has been a head of the urology unit at the "Artmed" Medical Center in Moscow. Dr. Al Madbuh is a member of the European Association of Urology and Nephrology, of the World Association of Infertility and Impotence and the Russian Association of Urology, Nephrology and Impotence, as well.

Ahmed Al Madbuh has been accredited as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Palestine in the Republic Bulgaria on January 21st, 2009. Since 2014 till present he is a doyen of the diplomatic corps in our country.

- Your Excellency, a New Year is coming. As a doyen of the diplomatic corps in Sofia, what would you like to wish to your colleagues, to the Bulgarians, to the Palestinian people?

- I wish to my colleagues the ambassadors a fruitful year with success in the development of the relations of their countries with Bulgaria. Good bilateral relations are always in the interest of the peoples, of the Bulgarian and others. I wish them also peace of mind and harmony.

I wish to the Bulgarian people more peace, prosperity, love between the human beings and success in achieving what it seems to be striving.

As far as to our Palestinian people, we have only one wish and it is the implementation of our rights and the end of the occupation.

- During the past 2016 the world has been quite an uproar. There have been conflicts and tensions everywhere on all points: Syria, in your country... Even the European Union is in troubles: crisis, brexit, refugees etc... Does diplomacy  today have the capacity to pacify the world?

- Diplomacy is the best means through which peace could and ought to be established. Diplomacy could resolve all these conflicts, provided there is the political will of the great states that control these conflicts. Until a year ago, we can say we were living in an unipolar world. A second pole has been formed during the past 2016. Usually, when one pole rules, it tries to make everyone to live according to its vision and its will. In the Middle East all it started in Iraq, we are witnessing what happened there. Before it was Yugoslavia. And even before it was the occupation of Palestine by Israel. The unique pole failed in making the Israelis to observe the various international resolutions aiming to end the occupation. Now, in the presence of two poles, we can hope that these conflicts between states will be solved on the basis of arrangements agreed between them, based on international law. The conflict in the Middle East can no longer be solved without the opinion and the intervention of Russia. Currently, Russia calls for compliance with international resolutions and decisions. We hope, this will lead to a diplomatic resolution of the conflicts and I think it is some answer of your question.

- You are one of the most active ambassadors in our country. You have delivered numerous lectures before the Bulgarian audience on the Middle East conflict and terrorism. When and how this conflict will be solved and peace achieved?

- In 1988 we made a historic compromise by giving consent for our state to be created within the boarders delimited before the war of 1967, the boarders of June 4th, 1967, and the issue of the Palestinian refugees to be further resolved on the basis of the UNO Resolution 194 of 1948. The whole world and the United Nations Organisation accepted all these resolutions in order to resolve the conflict between Palestine and Israel and decided to found the State of Israel. Therefore, we urge negotiations and all relations between our states to be based on the international law and international resolutions and decisions. If pressure is exerted on Israel, so that it should be forced to obey and comply with international resolutions and decisions, as well as international law, our problem could be easy and quick to resolve. The conflict will end within two days. Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967 in six days. This means that they could take back within the same period of time. And on the seventh day we could sit together to negotiate and agree on the final resolution of the situation. Unfortunately, Israel is regarding itself as being placed above the international law and above the law.

- Perhaps there is some hope. A few days ago the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution by which it insists that all kind of settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, should be immediately ceased.

- Yes, the world began to discover the ugly face of the occupation. This reflected in the decision of UNESCO on Islamic holy sites in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem. In the same context also fits the resolution of the Security Council which confirmed that the settler colonization is illegal and should be immediately terminated and the existing colonies should be removed. This brings great hope that achieving a solution to the issue would be possible only if there was a political will among the powerful authorities.

- A few Bulgarians only are traveling to Palestine; only a few of us know the nature of the Palestinian people. What kind of people are the Palestinians?

- We are a nation that is already more than hundred years under a foreign occupation. First there were the British, after them the Israelis. During the 40s of last century Jewish refugees persecuted by Hitler started coming to Palestine and we met them with bread and salt. This is our nature. According to our customs, when someone is looking for our protection and asylum, we must provide them to him. And even though back then voices of warning were saying: "Be careful, they came to colonize your land!", we did not allow ourselves to listen to them, we did not allow ourselves to impose restrictions on people, refugees from the war. Our nation has suffered so many hostilities, but those could neither change the nature of the Palestinians, nor could kill their humanism. We sympathize with everybody, we strive for peace in which our children, but also the children of Israel should live. Just in order to achieve this peace, we made the big compromise in 1988.

- How do you manage to combine the functions of the ambassador of a country thet needs international support and solidarity with those of a doyen?

- These are two very different aspects. According to the diplomatic protocol, the doyen is the one who is the longest accredited in the country. So, it is not an achievement, but it is achieved automatically, by period of time. My work as an ambassador does not come into conflict with that of a doyen. Both works are complementary. I feel proud that a Palestinian is the doyen of the diplomatic corps in Sofia. Moreover, just this fact is another confirmation that we are a state like any other, although we are under occupation.

- You have been an ambassador in Bulgaria for 8 years. How the bilateral relations between Bulgaria and Palestine have developed during this time?

- Like all the other embassies, we work to strengthen bilateral relations between our countries. Various agreements for co-operation have been signed between Bulgaria and Palestine in the field of agriculture, tourism and culture. A Mixed Intergovernmental Commission Palestine - Bulgaria has been established and chaired on the level of foreign ministers. Its particular task will be to work for the complete practical development of the bilateral relations and its meetings should be alternately held in both countries. With regard to the political sphere, there have been visits exchanged on the highest level, between presidents, prime ministers and ministers of foreign affairs.

Regarding internal aspects, our efforts in Bulgaria were directed towards the development of cultural relationships. In this respect, there were held many Palestinian exhibitions in different locations all over the country, some of our folklore ensembles participated in various festivals here, there have been established contacts with the Bulgarian youth through a series of lectures that I gave at various universities, excellent relations are maintained with NGOs, civil society organizations and associations.

- In fact, Palestine became closer to the Bulgarians thanks to the cultural events conducted in recent years. What do you foresee in this area in 2017?

- We at the embassy plan to issue a book each year for presenting Palestinian culture. Since I am here, I think there have been issued five or six books. A new Palestinian work should be also presented in 2017, probably on the occasion of the Day of the Palestinian culture, on March 13th. This is the birthday of the great Palestinian poet and writer Mahmoud Darwish. In his poems and prose texts he reflects all aspects of the status of Palestine. As a mark of respect to his work, after he died, March 13th has been declared the Day of the Palestinian culture.

Therefore, we have discussed the possibilities to organize a Week of the Palestinian culture in Bulgaria and a Week of the Bulgarian culture in Palestine.

I must say that Palestine traditionally participates in the annual festival of cinema from the Middle East and North Africa, the Sofia MENAR Film Festival. In January 2017 we will also participate with 5 or 6 films.

We have ambitions in the political sphere as well. Next year we would like to raise the level of relations between Palestine and Bulgaria up to the highest levels.

- Which is your favorite place in Bulgaria which you would probably miss?

- Bulgaria is a very beautiful country. I would probably miss everything here. But first thing that comes to my mind is Vitosha Mountain, with these forests, waters and the way it looks at Sofia. This is a fine view that will stay forever in me. Everywhere in the world there are seas, there are mountains for skiing. But this view, from Vitosha to Sofia, I will remember forever.

- What do you miss from Palestine in the country?

- In the Christmas and New Year atmosphere I feel most palpably nostalgic for the ancient streets of Old Jerusalem. I am nostalgic for Via Dolorosa, the path of suffering on which Christ has walked and for Bethlehem, the place where he was born, for the nationwide celebrations taking place in Jerusalem and Bethlehem for Christmas Eve, with the participation of groups and ensembles, both Christian and Muslim, without distinction.

Photo above: "Diplomatic spectrum"

Photos below: provided by the Embassy of the State of Palestine in Bulgaria

1. H.Е. Dr. Ahmed Al Madbuh - Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Palestine and the doyen of the diplomatic corps in Bulgaria, with the team of the Embassy at the Charity Bazaar of the International Women's Club Sofia, December 4, 2016
2. With His Holiness Neophyte, Bulgarian Patriarch and Metropolitan of Sofia.
3. With the President Rosen Plevneliev having dinner with the Ambassadors of the Arab states in Bulgaria
4. With his wife and the newly elected president Rumen Radev.
5. During the official celebration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, December 5, Central Military Club in Sofia.
6. Receiving a honorary plaque as a guest lecturer at the National Military University "Vasil Levski" in the city of Veliko Tarnovo.
7. A lecture for the academic community of Trakia University - Stara Zagora.
8. On an official visit to the city of Velingrad for the opening of the Embassy Photo exhibition - "Palestine - the Holy Land" and "Yasser Arafat - Life and Work".