Moldovan President Igor Dodon says he will host his Turkish counterpart in Chisinau in October, weeks after Moldova expelled seven citizens of Turkey, in a move criticized by human rights organizations.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will make the official visit from October 17-18 for the opening of the presidential palace in the Moldovan capital, which was renovated with funds from Ankara, Dodon wrote on Facebook on September 26.
Erdogan is also set to travel to the autonomous Gagauzia region, which is populated mainly by ethnic Turkish Gagauz who speak Russian and have adopted Russian Orthodox Christianity.
Dodon said the Turkish president’s trip will consolidate bilateral relations "in areas of common interest."
The date of Erdogan’s visit was announced less than three weeks after seven Turkish teachers were detained in Chisinau in a joint operation with the Turkish intelligence service, and were expelled from Moldova on September 6.
Moldova's state security service, the SIS, said the seven teachers posed a "risk to national security," without providing details.
They were staff members of a Turkish high school in Chisinau’s Durlesti neighborhood that is linked to U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a failed coup in 2016.
Gulen, who lives in the United States, rejects the claim.
Their expulsion sparked harsh criticism among Moldovan and international human rights organizations, with Amnesty International saying authorities "didn’t just violate these individuals' rights once by deporting them -- they put them on a fast-track to further human rights violations such as an unfair trial."
The seven Turkish nationals, whose whereabouts are unknown, had requested asylum in Moldova, claiming they would face persecution in their homeland, according to the London-based human rights watchdog.