Meeting Turkey's Erdogan: a Matter of 'Unnatural' Timing

Opinions |Author: Angel Petrov | September 15, 2014, Monday // 12:14|  views

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a delegation of Bulgaria's Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) including leader Lyutvi Mestan (L-1 in the bottom). Photo by BGNES

A visit of liberal DPS's leader Lyutvi Mestan to Turkey's presidential compound might look like the "perfectly natural" thing for a party representing a vast Bulgarian Turkish population.

However, it also strikes the eye for having taken place in the midst of a surprisingly boring campaign, somewhat expected after such a tumultuous political year, but nevertheless causing all similar moves on the international scene to stand out.

Mestan himself was laconic about the meeting described by him as "inevitable, necessary and of benefit to Bulgaria". He also stressed it was "perfectly natural" to maintain dialogue with the newly-elected President.

Both the DPS (and its delegation) and, quite naturally, Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself delivered the messages they had for each other in Turkish, their mother tongue. This has caused some unofficial discontent in readers' comments below the respective reports in Bulgarian media outlets, but critics are missing the point: it was a reasonable gesture within the event, and not just to remove the need of an interpreter, as Mestan pointed.

The content of the meeting, or what the DPS leader has purported to be the content, is somehow alarming, though.

In a Sunday interview he explained bilateral relations had been on focus.

If the Erdogan-Mestan meeting is really a sign the liberal party, also Bulgaria's third-largest political force, is managing to restore the unofficial support of Ankara, the ensuing developments will be subject to months of speculation.

Experts here had previously argued Turkey threw its support behind Kasim Dal and Korman Ismailov's National Party Freedom and Dignity, something officials fervently deny and rightly do so, since there has never been clear evidence. Dal and Ismailov, two DPS renegades, set up the party in 2012, and Zaman, related to Islamist cleric Fethullah Gulen, alleged (alongside a number of Bulgarian dailies) their party had been virtually endorsed at the time of the last parliamentary election on May 12.

Whether there are any subtle shifts in support, or any support itself, is something that cannot be confirmed (or even argued) and, furthermore, remains to be seen in time.

Speaking of bilateral relations at an official meeting of a party leader from one country and the head of state of another held during an election campaign in the former (with both sides knowing very well the "election" mode is switched on) is another thing.

Unlike in the case of open or covert actions of one state showing predilection for a certain development in another, the topic of "state relations" cannot be a partisan or divisive area. At least not in official terms. 

A myriad of political scientists and experts have warned for years it is only through legitimate state actors that relations between states can be formed.

Short of blaming any side for "conspiring" (since this could have been just a regular visit, a "perfectly natural" follow-up to Erdogan's ascendancy to the presidential office), one cannot help noticing the meeting was marked by bad timing, regardless of whose initiative it was not to have it postponed.

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Tags: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kasim Dal, Korman Ismailov, DPS, Fethullah Gulen, National Party Freedom, National Party Freedom and Dignity


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