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Row between Turkey, Bulgaria cities over Armenian Genocide

Three Bulgarian municipalities will have their access to cross-border EU funding cut as Turkey has banned any partnership with them, reports, quoting private bTV station reported.

Haskovo, Burgas and Svilengrad, municipalities whose central cities lie near the border with Turkey, have been barred from cooperating with local authorities in Edirne, the Turkish municipality on the other side of the border, as Ankara has prohibited that they work together.

Edirne Mayor Recep Gürkan has told bTV that the Foreign Ministry of Turkey had explicitly forbidden any interaction with Haskovo due to what it perceives as a controversial position about the mass killings of Armenians in the 20th century. Separately, the local administrations of Haskovo and Burgas earlier adopted statements deploring the Armenian genocide.

Last April, the sister cities of Haskovo and Edirne froze ties over the decision of Haskovo that the park will bear the name “Armenians”.

Local authorities in Haskovo decided to rename the park in the days when Armenians around the world were marking a centenary since the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire began.

Mayor Gürkan then called the decision of Haskovo a result of a “unilateral, selective and divisive view of a period that is tragic for the entire population of the Ottoman Empire.”

Now he can be heard suggesting in bTV’s report that the respective local administrations should reverse their decisions as “Yambol did”. Yambol is another municipality located at the Bulgaria-Turkey border with which cooperation was suspended, but then restored.

However, Haskovo Mayor Dobri Belivanov is adamant that “no-one can interfere” to make authorities change the name of a street or a park. (The decision to name a park “Armenians” was taken under his predecessor, Georgi Ivanov.)

As an external border of the EU, Bulgaria is part of the bloc’s cross-border program whose total worth for the 2014-2020 is an estimated EUR 1 B.

A total of EUR 11 M potentially available to the three regions of Bulgaria under the cross-border cooperation program. As regards Turkey, the bulk of this sum has been earmarked for environment preservation and disaster management.

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