Türkiye on Thursday criticized Greece's latest move denying recognition to the Turkish minority’s elected Muslim clerics (muftis), calling it "unacceptable."
In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry urged Greece to respect international law and fulfill its obligations under the longstanding Treaty of Lausanne Peace and other relevant agreements on the Turkish minority in the Western Thrace region.
The statement came in response to new legislation allowing the appointment of muftis by Greek authorities, a system the Turkish minority in Western Thrace rejects, as it ignores the Turkish minority’s right under treaty to elect their own muftis.
Greece's Western Thrace region – in the country’s northeast, near the Turkish border – is home to a substantial, long-established Muslim Turkish minority numbering around 150,000, or around a third of the population.
The rights of the Turks of Western Thrace were guaranteed under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, but since then the situation has steadily deteriorated.
After a Greek junta came to power in 1967, the Turks of Western Thrace started to face harsher persecution and rights abuses by the Greek state, often in blatant violation of European court rulings.
The Turkish minority in Greece continues to face problems exercising its collective and civil rights and education rights, including Greek authorities banning the word “Turkish” in the names of associations, shuttering Turkish schools, and trying to block the Turkish community from electing its own muftis.