Turkey provokes again, this time through Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who criticised Athens for alleged human right breaches against the recognised Muslim minority based in northeast Greece, saying that Athens has no say in human rights matters.
The statements of the Turkish foreign minister come shortly after the harsh response of the Greek Foreign Ministry to the Turkish claims that Athens has closed more than half of the minority schools in Thrace.
Turkish foreign minister slams Athens on minority rights, says Greece has no say in human rights matter
— ANADOLU AGENCY (@anadoluagency) July 27, 2022
The response of the Foreign Ministry to Ankara: The few Greek schools in Turkey show the violent uprooting of the Greeks
"Unfortunately, once again, Ankara completely reverses reality in order to project positions that cannot withstand criticism. We reject them in their entirety", said the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alexandros Papaioannou, in response to a journalist's question regarding Turkey's statements.
As he pointed out, the decision to suspend the operation of schools is taken with the exact same criteria throughout Greece, that is, when the number of students falls below the minimum threshold of nine students.
He stated that in the educational year 2022-2023, only in the Region of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace, in addition to the four minority primary schools, the operation of another 29 non-minority primary schools suspended.
"Therefore, no one can speak of unfavourable treatment of the minority students," he stressed.
"This data clearly demonstrate that the educational choices of the Greek State are made equally and without discrimination for all Greek citizens, with the sole aim of providing a high level of education for the benefit of the students themselves," the spokesperson added.
"Turkey must put an end to its misleading rhetoric and understand the reality that demonstrates that the Muslim Minority in Thrace, living in a free and democratic and European country, fully enjoys its freedoms and rights, just like all Greeks citizens," Papaioannou stressed.
On the contrary, he added, "the very few schools of the Greek minority in Turkey bear witness to the violent and systematic uprooting of the Greeks from their ancestral lands".
He also reminded that "for the prosperous Muslim minority in Thrace, ninety-nine elementary schools will operate during the next academic year, while in Istanbul only three will operate, one in Imbros and none in Tenedos."
The spokesperson added that the Muslim minority in Thrace numbers approximately 120,000 members, while the Greek minority in Turkey does not exceed 3,000 people, while at the time of the Treaty of Lausanne they were the same number.
"Unfortunately for Turkey, the numbers speak their own undeniable truth about who respects and implements the Treaty of Lausanne," he stressed and concluded by saying: "The Hellenic Republic is a European state of law that fully protects and guarantees human rights and the liberties of its citizens".
The Turkish claims
Last Friday, the press representative of Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tanju Bilgiç, in a statement, in which... of course, he noted that the schools belong to the "Turkish minority of Western Thrace", claimed that Athens is closing four minority schools in Thrace.
As Bilgiç emphasised, his country condemns "Greece's decision to close another four primary schools, belonging to the Turkish minority of Western Thrace, using the excuse of austerity measures and the insufficient number of students every year".
He also noted that, "with this latest decision, which has been repeated in recent years, more than half of the minority primary schools have been closed.
"Thus, it seems that Greece's policy of closing the primary schools of the Turkish minority in Western Thrace, through 'temporary suspension', has become systematic", the spokesperson continued.
"As we have repeatedly stated, the aforementioned decisions, which violate the right of the minority to establish, manage and supervise its own schools in accordance with the provisions of the Lausanne Peace Treaty, are an indication of the reflection of the discriminatory and oppressive policy practiced in every field for years at the expense of our compatriots in Western Thrace in the field of education," asserted Bilgiç.
Turkey’s own Foreign Ministry website affirms that there is only a Muslim minority in Thrace.
The Treaty of Lausanne Part VI Article 2 states:
“Moslems established in the region to the east of the frontier line laid down in 1918 by the Treaty of Bucharest shall be considered as Moslem inhabitants of Western Thrace.”
Of the 120,000 Muslims in Thrace, the overwhelming comprise of Pomaks (Slavic-speaking Muslims) Roma and Greek Muslims, but Ankara none-the-less labels them as “Turkish", no matter how many times Pomak and Roma community organisations announce that they are not Turkish.
Çavuşoğlu: Talks with the US on the F-16 are going well
In another part of his statements today, Çavuşoğlu expressed his optimism about the progress of discussions with the US on the supply of F-16.
According to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, the Turkish foreign minister said that "talks about the fighters are going well and the negative atmosphere that existed in the Congress in the past years has disappeared."