site.btaUPDATED Foreign Minister Milkov: Skopje Undermines Attempts to Upgrade Relations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia
The attempts to build up and to calm down the relations between Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia were undermined by some concrete actions of the authorities in Skopje, who for extremely unconvincing reasons, in violation of the assurances given beforehand, did not allow the tribute to Gotse Delchev, Foreign Minister Nikolay Milkov said at a briefing at the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.
His statement was in connection with the situation surrounding the commemoration of the 151st birth anniversary of Gotse Delchev in the Republic of North Macedonia on February 4.
According to Milkov, attempts were made to thaw the relations between the two countries, which had reached a low level. This happened on the initiative of Prime Minister Galab Donev, who held a conversation with his counterpart Dimitar Kovacevski at the end of last week, the foreign minister said. He also pointed out that Deputy Prime Minister for Public Order and Security and Minister of Interior Ivan Demerdzhiev visited the Republic of North Macedonia, which, in his words, was related to the negotiation of eventual obstructions to the pilgrimage to the church of Gotse Delchev's grave on February 4.
Minister Milkov said that certain commitments had been made which were subsequently not kept.
The authorities in North Macedonia eventually decided to act regarding the repression of Bulgarian citizens and people with Bulgarian identity. And we all saw what move they made, he said.
First, an attempt was made to restrict the Bulgarian delegation to a time slot for worship in the morning at 9:00. Interior Minister Demerdzhiev refused to comply because no one from Bulgaria would have been able to come at that time. That may have been the purpose of the restriction in the first place, according to Milkov.
He explained that subsequently a time slot from 12:00 to 14:00 had been given and initially three people from the Bulgarian delegation were allowed to pay their respects. He said that after further arrangements, five people from the delegation were allowed access to the grave.
According to Milkov, the Bulgarian citizens who were travelling from Bulgaria to the Republic of North Macedonia were expected to cross the border at noon, and that was precisely when North Macedonia's border crossing system went offline for four hours. He added that the system did not work only in one direction, which meant the whole setup was staged.
Dozens of vehicles with hundreds of people could not enter North Macedonia at all. Those who were able to get in were not allowed into the church and could not do what they were travelling to do, he noted, adding, "Instead, a number of bans on entry were issued, people were arrested, people were beaten, and that was an extremely quick response by the justice system in North Macedonia, which otherwise drags out investigations."
"This, of course, marks a new low point in our relations. Unfortunately, what we are hearing in terms of feedback and comments from Skopje simply raises the question of whether we are talking about the same thing. The comments are diametrically opposed, as if they were based on other events," Minister Milkov added.