Bulgaria FM Admits Relations with Turkey Soured

Diplomacy | March 12, 2016, Saturday // 08:17|  views

Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov. File photo, BGNES

Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov on Friday say his institution had done its best to prevent a diplomatic conflict with Turkey from spiralling.

Speaking before lawmakers as part of a regular Q&A session with ministers, however, he acknowledged ties between the two countries had been strained by some recent developments.

Replying to Velizar Enchev, an independent lawmaker, he said he had left it to his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to decide whether the presence of Turkey's Ambassador to Bulgaria, Suleyman Gokce, contributed positively to bilateral relations.

"I could not hide that bilateral relations between Bulgaria and Turkey, as well as our national dignity, were hurt by the events in the days around Christmas," Mitov told MPs.

"It is not in accordance with my undestanding of professional diplomatic behaviour that the head of a mision shows behaviour perceived even by public opinion as interference in domestic affairs of our country."

Mitov was referring to the developments at the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) party, the third-largest party of Bulgaria dominated by ethnic Turks who also make up the bulk of its electorate.

At the end of December, Turkey reportedly sided with Lyutvi Mestan, the former DPS leader expelled after accusations by the party's honorary chair Ahmed Dogan of supporting Ankara in its diplomatic spat with Moscow and thus betraying national interest.

Allegations were then hurled at Mestan of having tried to hide in the Turkish Embassy in the days of his dispute with Dogan. Mestan explained he had been fearing for his life and had met with the ambassador for several hours to ask for advice.

Days after Mestan's expulsion, Turkish Ambassador Gokce was accompanying Mestan at commemorative ceremonies related to the killings of several ethnic Turks by Bulgarian forces back in the 1980s.

The government in Sofia announced days later that Prime Minister Boyko Borisov had received calls from Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu urging Sofia to choose sides in the DPS affair.

Subsequently, several of Borisov's coalition allies demanded that Ambassador Gokce be asked to leave the country.

What followed was the expulsion of a social affairs attache with Turkey's consular authorities in Burgas, reported by national media but never confirmed by the Foreign Ministry. Turkey responded through reciprocal action, reportedly declaring a Bulgarian diplomat from the consulate in Istanbul "persona non grata".

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Tags: Daniel Mitov, turkey, Ahmed Dogan, Lyutvi Mestan, Suleyman Gokce, Bulgaria


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