Greece’s foreign ministry reacted strongly Sunday to repeated statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu referring to a “Turkish minority” during his Sunday visit to Thrace by accusing him of repeatedly distorting reality.
Cavusoglu, who has arrived in Athens, visited earlier Sunday, among others, a minority school, the tomb of Sadik Ahmet, once a member of Parliament and the head of an openly pro-Turkish party, as well as the Turkish-backed muftis of the cities of Komotini and Xanthi, whom Greece does not recognise, having appointed others on those posts.
Greece regards the minority in Thrace as religious, pointing out the diverse ethnic backgrounds of its members, while Turkey insists on referring to it as an ethnic Turkish minority, in contravention of the Treaty of Lausanne, which the ministry reminded Turkey of its obligation to implement.
The Turkish foreign minister made a series of tweets of questionable diplomatic sensitivity as his meetings progressed:
– In #Greece to meet members of Turkish Minority in #WesternThrace and discuss our bilateral relations.
– In #WesternThrace met first w/Mufti @muftu_iserif of #Komotini and Mufti @muftu_ahmetmete of #Xanthi. The work of the Muftis contributes greatly to the preservation and strengthening of the unity and solidarity of the Turkish Minority.
– Visited Celal Bayar High School, one of the two Turkish Minority High Schools in #WesternThrace. Turkish Minority’s children of all ages having an education in better conditions and in their mother tongue is important.Will continue to support our kinsmen to solve these problems.
– Met with the members of the #WesternThrace Turkish Minority Advisory Board. Emphasized that we will always stand resolutely with the Turkish Minority in their struggle for their rights and underlined once again our strong support. @bttadk
– Visited in #Komotini the tomb of Dr. Sadık Ahmet, a true man of ideals who fought until his last breath for the protection of the rights of the Turkish Minority. We salute all our kinsmen who embrace Sadık Ahmet’s cause.
On leaving Celal Bayar school, Cavusoglu had an impromptu question and answer session with Turkish media. Said Turkey was aware of the ‘struggles’ of its ethnic minority in Greece and that he was working on it, talking about it with Greek government officials.
Here’s the full statement by the ministry’s spokesman, Alexandros Papaioannou:
“Greece, a state governed by the rule of law, remains firmly committed to international law and the protection of human rights.
It fully implements the obligations arising from the Treaty of Lausanne, which explicitly and clearly refers to the Muslim minority in Thrace.
The Muslim Minority in Thrace has about 120,000 Greek inhabitants.
Turkey’s constant attempts to distort this reality, as well as the allegations of alleged non-protection of the rights of these citizens, or of alleged discrimination, are unfounded and are rejected in their entirety.
Greece would like to improve relations with Turkey. Respect for international law is a prerequisite.
We call on Turkey to respect these fundamental rules, including the Treaty of Lausanne, which it has also signed and is obliged to implement.”
Cavusoglu and his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, will meet for an informal dinner Sunday. Official meetings with Dendias and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will follow Monday.