Turkey 'Expels Bulgarian Diplomat' in Reciprocal Move
Turkey has declared a Bulgarian diplomat "persona non grata", echoing a step by the Bulgarian government which expelled a Turkish social affairs attach? to the Consulate General in Burgas, Turkish media outlets report.
Zornitsa Petkova Apostolova, who works at the Bulgarian Consulate General in Istanbul, was reportedly asked to leave Turkey.
According to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry's website, Apostolova works as First Secretary at the Consulate General of Bulgaria in Istanbul.
The Foreign Ministry has declined to comment on the information.
"We will not comment these issues either now or in the future," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Betina Zhoteva has told Novinite when asked about the case.
"We have all the ground not to do so and we will not."
Last week reports emerged that Sofia had asked Ugur Emiroglu, a social affairs attach? at the Turkish Consulate General in Burgas, to leave the country on the grounds he interfered in domestic politics and domestic religious affairs of Bulgaria's Muslim population.
The Foreign Ministry choose not to comment on that case either, saying its decision was conformed to diplomatic practices.
H?rriyet Daily News quotes "reliable sources familiar with the issue" as saying Sofia's decision had "prompted Ankara to take a counteraction by declaring Apostolova persona non grata".
The latest developments come amid a scandal in the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), Bulgaria's third-largest party whose members are predominantly ethnic Turks, unfolding as tensions are still high between Turkey and Russia over the downing of a Russian Su-24 fighter bomber.
In December, the DPS's then leader Lyutvi Mestan was expelled from the party after its honorary chair, Ahmed Dogan, accused him of betraying national interest by siding with Turkey in the spat with Russia and reading a declaration in Parliament on behalf of the party. Dogan is thought to have close ties to Russia, while Mestan, since taking over the chairman's office in 2013, had embarked on rapprochement between Sofia and Ankara.
Many in the DPS then accused the Turkish Embassy of supporting Mestan, pointing to the fact he had chosen to "hide" there for several hours around Christmas Eve (the time he was expelled). In the aftermath, Mestan founded a party named Democrats for Unity, Solidarity and Tolerance (DOST) which his critics allege is affiliated with the Turkish state.
Earlier in February, Turkish media outlets reported Ankara had barred Dogan and Delyan Peevski, a controversial Bulgarian lawmaker and media mogul, from entering the country.
Turkey's Ambassador to Bulgaria Suleyman Gokce made clear over the weekend Ankara had never sought to wield influence on Bulgarian domestic politics.
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