March 26, 2018 / 12:54 PM / a month ago

Bulgaria should press Turkey over historic compensation claim - president

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria should press Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday on its claim for compensation for the descendants of Bulgarians who fled Turkey 100 years ago, its president said.

File Photo - Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov speaks during the re-opening of the St. Stefan Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Istanbul, Turkey, January 7, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov will meet Erdogan ahead of a European Union-Turkey summit in Bulgaria later on Monday but has not said if he will raise the historic grievance.

The summit is being held on what Bulgaria marks as Thrace Day, remembering the more than 250,000 Bulgarians who fled their homes in Eastern Thrace after the Second Balkan War in 1913 when the Ottoman Empire reclaimed some territories lost in 1912-1913 in the First Balkan War.

Thousands of Thracian Bulgarians were killed and organisations representing refugees’ descendants say Turkey owes them around $10 billion for properties their ancestors left behind. There are between 800,000 and 1 million descendants of the refugees from 1913.

President Rumen Radev said Bulgaria should not miss the opportunity to press Erdogan.

“I expect Bulgaria not to remain in the role of a host. I hope that the prime minister will raise the issue of Turkey’s non-interference in our internal affairs... and also the compensation of the Thracian refugees,” he said.

The Socialist party (BSP), Bulgaria’s largest opposition party, also called on Borissov to raise the issue, saying: “Bulgaria’s role as a mediator between Europe and Turkey must not be at the expense of its national interest.”

Bulgaria says Turkey recognised its claims in a friendship treaty signed in 1925.

During a previous meeting with Borissov, Erdogan said that measures would be taken “if it is proven that our country has to pay out compensations over the properties of the Thracian refugees.”

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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