Interim Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski went to Istanbul today for a meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew today, and invited the SDSM party leader Zoran Zaev to join the delegation. It’s unclear in what official capacity was Zaev invited to Istanbul, especially following the highly embarrassing prank call in which Zaev offered to pay a bribe of 100.000 EUR to Bartholomew in return for recognizing the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

Spasovski is a complete Zaev loyalist, so his invitation to a mere party leader to join him on an official visit is not a huge surprise. As Prime Minister, Zaev pushed strongly to get the Ecumenical Patriarch to recognize the Macedonian church. He hinted that the long awaited recognition, which has encountered strong opposition from the Serbian church, will be one of the benefits of the humiliating Prespa treaty that renames Macedonia.

Bartholomew recognized the Ukrainian Orthodox church as separate from the Russian church, but has stopped short of moving against Serbia, which has historically close ties with his native Greece, and which claims authority over the Macedonian and Montenegrin churches.

Despite no longer holding public office, Zaev attempts to portray himself as still holding the office of Prime Minister. He also announced a visit to Bulgaria, where he plans to discuss the dispute over the historical figures that are honored in both countries.