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Bulgaria Says Ready To Reinforce Border With Turkey If Needed

Officials inspect Bulgaria's border with Turkey.

Bulgarian officials say they are prepared to increase patrols and complete a razor-wire fence along its border with Turkey to prevent any new flood of migrants.

"We are ready to protect the country's border in the way provided for in our legislation," Defense Minister Stefan Yanev told the AFP news agency during a visit to Malko Tarnovo, a town on Bulgaria’s southeastern border with Turkey.

He added, however, that the border for now is calm and that illegal border-crossing attempts have declined over the past two months.

The comments on March 18 come after Turkey threatened to send 15,000 refugees to the European Union in an escalating diplomatic spat with the bloc.

Bulgaria, which is involved in a separate diplomatic dispute with Ankara, could bear the brunt of any new refugee influx because of its 270-kilometer border with Turkey.

Bulgaria has assailed Ankara for its open support for Dost, a party representing the country’s 200,000-strong ethnic Turkish minority, calling it "direct interference in Bulgarian domestic affairs."

Dost is competing in the Bulgarian general elections for the first time.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Germany, and other countries have blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies ahead of an April referendum in Turkey that would increase President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers.

Many European countries have large ethnic Turkish populations who are eligible to vote in the referendum.

The dispute led Ankara to threaten to end a 2016 deal with the EU to stem the flow of migrants crossing into Europe.

Defense Minister Yanev said during his visit to the border that his aim was "to inspect the new protective barriers and assess and update the plans for protecting the border."

Bulgaria last year built 200 kilometers of razor-wire fences to block Syrian, Afghan, and other migrants, and it deployed 200 additional security forces to patrol the border.

Yanev said a further 24 kilometers of barriers would be completed by May.

With reporting by AFP, BTA, and Newsweek
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