Bul­gar­ian politi­cian dumped for sid­ing with Tur­key

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The leader of Bul­garia’s eth­nic Turk­ish party has been ousted from his post and expelled from the party, of­fi­cially for declar­ing sup­port for Tur­key in its row with Moscow over the down­ing of a Rus­sian war­plane, ac­cord­ing to the EU news and pol­icy site EurAc­tiv.

Lyutvi Mes­tan, who headed the op­po­si­tion DPS party (Move­ment for Rights and Free­doms) which rep­re­sents eth­nic Turks, voiced sup­port for Tur­key’s ac­tion last month. In a dec­la­ra­tion to the Bul­gar­ian par­lia­ment, Mes­tan said Rus­sia’s vi­o­la­tion of Turk­ish airspace amounted to a vi­o­la­tion of sovereignty of NATO ter­ri­tory and that Rus­sia had pre­vi­ously been given many of­fi­cial warn­ings.

Tur­key said it shot down the plane in de­fense of its airspace. Moscow de­nied its plane had passed over Turk­ish ter­ri­tory. A spokes­woman for the MRF said that Mes­tan had been dis­missed from his post and expelled from the party by a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion of its lead­er­ship taken at a meet­ing in the villa of party founder Ahmed Do­gan.

“All the de­ci­sions re­gard­ing Mes­tan were unan­i­mous,” the spokes­woman, Velislava Krasteva, told re­porters.

Do­gan, a re­spectable el­der states­man of Bul­gar­ian pol­i­tics, said dur­ing the meet­ing that “this would be the fate of ev­ery­one who stands up against Bul­garia’s na­tional in­ter­ests.”

The dec­la­ra­tion in sup­port for Tur­key in the con­text of the downed air­plane may be only the tip of the iceberg.

In a speech to the DPS lead­er­ship on De­cem­ber 17, the text of which was pub­lished a week later, Do­gan said that the EU had hardly the mo­ti­va­tion to be an in­ter­na­tional player, while Tur­key and Rus­sia be­came more and more as­sertive. In this con­text, he crit­i­cised Mes­tan for tak­ing sides and trans­form­ing DPS into a Turk­ish “fifth col­umn” in Bul­garia.

“If you want to play that game, this is recipe for po­lit­i­cal dis­as­ter”, Do­gan said.

The move high­lighted Bul­garia’s un­usual role in main­stream Europe. Though a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Union and the NATO al­liance, it still feels close to Moscow, for his­toric rea­sons dat­ing back to the 1877-78 Rus­sianTurk­ish war.

In a state­ment later last week, Mes­tan said the dec­la­ra­tion he had made to par­lia­ment had been adopted by the party’s par­lia­men­tary group and showed DPS sup­port for NATO val­ues. “Bul­garia’s na­tional in­ter­est has been con­nected with the EU and NATO for years now, and not with Rus­sia,” Mes­tan, who was not in­vited to the ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing, said in a state­ment.

Bul­gar­ian po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Ognyan Minchev was quoted as say­ing that the at­ti­tude of Tur­key vis-à-vis Bul­garia was ag­gres­sive, al­though it came in covert forms. Minchev crit­i­cised in par­tic­u­lar the push of the Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties to le­git­imise Bul­garia as an in­te­gral part of the Ot­toman space.

The DPS party rep­re­sents eth­nic Turks and other Mus­lim groups who make up about 13% of the 7.2 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion. DPS is af­fil­i­ated to the Euro­pean lib­eral ALDE party.

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