Reaction by Bulgaria’s political parties represented in Parliament to the shooting down of a Russian SU-24 military bomber by the Turkish Air Force followed predictable lines.
Official Bulgarian reaction in the first 24 hours after the November 24 shooting down of the Russian aircraft was limited. Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said the same day that the downing of a Russian military plane by Turkish fighter jets was likely to have consequences and would not “lead to positive results” and he added that that Bulgaria had made every effort to avoid a similar incident in its own air space.
By noon on November 25, Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry had made no further comment beyond its statement the previous day about the emergency meeting that evening of Nato ambassadors that had been called at the request of Turkey.
In Parliament, the dividing lines were, as usual on issues such as this one, between opposition minority parties that are pro-Russian and the party that is closely identified with Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity.
However, the parliamentary group leader of GERB, the centre-right party that is the majority partner in the coalition government and the largest party in the National Assembly, called for Bulgaria not to take sides on the issue.
GERB parliamentary leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov said that Bulgaria should not take sides in the conflict between Russia and Turkey and said he hoped that there would be an understanding and reason between the two countries.
Tsvetanov said that Nato was expected to issue a declaration and only then could the country adopt a stance, “but we should be very balanced and careful, because at the moment the challenge facing the world is to fight terrorism”. He expressed confidence that Turkey and Russia would find a way out of the situation.
He urged other parliamentary groups to be careful, because “the situation is extremely tense and each statement can provoke some tension on a bilateral basis”.
The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, the second-largest party in the National Assembly by some distance and which traditionally is positive towards the Kremlin, called for an independent international investigation into what had happened on the Turkish-Syrian border.
BSP MP Yanaki Stoilov said in a declaration in the National Assembly, “the BSP strongly defends the principle of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders, both in Europe and in other regions. But what happened yesterday requires a very clear international response. We expect the conducting of an independent international investigation into exactly in what circumstances the Russian military aircraft was brought down”.
Stoilov said that Syria’s internal conflicts were taking on an increasingly global dimension, with the so-called “Islamic State” involving itself and its actions no longer being limited to Syria, as evidenced by the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.
The BSP called on Parliament to recognise that for Bulgaria, these conflicts create potential hazards. “We need to form a Bulgarian national position, behind which stand above all, the Parliament, Government and President, to protect the interests of Bulgaria,” he said.
Lyutvi Mestan, leader of the Bulgarian Parliament’s third-largest party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity – read a 10-point declaration in the National Assembly.
Mestan said that it was indisputable that in the past month, Russian military aircraft repeatedly had violated Turkish airspace, in spite of repeated official warnings to the Russian ambassador in Ankara and the military attache. This had been confirmed in the official position of Nato, he said.
The violation of the airspace and sovereignty of any Nato member state was a violation of the sovereignty and airspace of the alliance, the MRF leader said.
The actions against the “Islamic State”, including military actions,should be done in strict coordination between all participating countries, and in strict compliance with international law, including the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each country, Mestan said.
The MRF called for more dialogue among member states of Nato and the EU to develop a common policy and specifically to decisively counteract the expansion of “Islamic State” and the growing terrorist aggression, and said that it supported Nato’s call for a de-escalation of relations between Russia and Turkey and a return to political dialogue.
While Mestan was speaking, BSP MPs walked out of the plenary hall. Stoilov said that they had left because of the “one-sided approach” to the events on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Ataka, one of the two smallest parties in the eight-party Parliament, and avowedly pro-Russian while traditionally also steeped in enmity towards Turkey, called on the National Assembly to adopt a declaration condemning Turkey’s actions.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)