Bulgaria rebuts controversial Erdoğan statement on ‘spiritual’ borders

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan / AFP PHOTO / Adem ALTAN

Bulgaria’s foreign ministry told Turkey on Tuesday that internationally agreed borders cannot be changed, reacting to a statement by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said on Sunday the Bulgarian city of Kardzhali finds itself “in the spiritual boundaries of Turkey,” European media platform EURACTIV reported.

Addressing a local congress of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the city of Sakarya, Erdoğan also made reference to Bulgarian Turks living in Turkey.

The Bulgarian foreign ministry said “[T]oday’s state borders have been established by international treaties, recognised by all states and not subject to doubt or revision” and that “Erdoğan’s statement has the potential to upset the efforts of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov to host a “leaders’ meeting” between Erdoğan and the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Junker, in Varna on 26 March.”

Bulgarian language website Haberbg.net quoted Erdoğan as saying: “From this magnificent place I personally want to congratulate my brothers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Western Thrace, Crimea, Bulgaria and Romania.

“We send our greetings to all the victims and oppressed brothers of ours in Sarajevo, Skopje, Xanthi, Komotini, Kardzhali and Mostar. We share our cordiality with these brothers whose souls and eyes are turned to Turkey, for those who pray for the success of Turkey.

“Every time I say it – these cities are physically located in the borders of other countries, but they are part of our spiritual boundaries. The meaning of Turkey does not fit within 780,000 kilometers. Half of our heart is in Istanbul, Diyarbakir, Trabzon, Antalya, Izmir, and the other half is in Aleppo, Kirkuk, Jerusalem, Sandzak and Bukhara.”

Turkey’s nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire is seen by pundits as a plan to expand territorially, especially if the country loses territories as a result of the likely emergence of a Kurdish state. Such a scenario, without any doubt, is highly explosive.

The Varna summit was basically agreed until Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades convinced his colleagues at the last EU summit to make a planned “leaders’ meeting” with Erdoğan in Varna conditional on stopping “illegal violations” in the Cypriot economic zone.

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