Erdogan decries Greece over undermining Muslim minority rights
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed Greece for allegedly violating a century-old peace treaty and undermining the Muslim minority in the region of Thrace.
In a statement released on the 99th anniversary of the Lausanne Treaty on Sunday, Erdogan said the conditions registered in the treaty, especially the rights of the Turkish minority, have been “ignored” or “deliberately eroded.”
“It is not possible for our country to accept this situation, which is incompatible with good neighborly relations and loyalty to the treaty,” he said.
His remarks come as four Muslim minority schools were closed in Greece’s Thrace where Muslims make up nearly 32% of the province’s population, in a move denounced by the Turkish Foreign Ministry as part of “discriminatory and oppressive policies” adopted by the Athens government.
However, the Greek Foreign Ministry dismissed the statement as “unsubstantiated,” saying the schools were suspended because student numbers fell below minimum requirements.
Ankara has also accused Greece of violating the treaty by militarizing the Aegean islands, which lie off Turkey’s coast, but Athens said it is defending its territory against constant Turkish hostility in accordance with international law.
The Lausanne Treaty was signed by the new Republic of Turkey to settle disputes with the Allies, including Greece, following World War I and the Turkish War of Independence. It outlined the rights of the remaining Muslim minority in Greece and Christians in Turkey and set out conditions for the Greek rule of the Aegean islands.
Turkey and Greece, both of them NATO members, have been at loggerheads for years over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the eastern Mediterranean. The two countries have come to the brink of war three times in the past five decades.
Last year, Ankara resumed negotiations with Athens following a five-year break to address differences over a range of issues, but the talks were halted last month.