Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has criticised Athens for what he said was failing to uphold the rights of its Muslim minority in Western Thrace and of forbidding its members to call themselves “Turks,” Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported.
“Greece does not recognize the religious rights of the minority and the muftis [Muslim religious leaders] cannot exercise their rights,” Çavusoğlu said while speaking after the 54th meeting of the European Union-Turkey Association Council on Friday.
Çavuşoğlu added that Turks who live in Greece cannot call themselves “Turks” despite previous rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the matter.
The Lausanne Peace Treaty established a balance between the religious rights of ethnic Turks in western Thrace and those of the Greek Orthodox community in Istanbul.
Ankara allows the Greek Orthodox in Istanbul to elect their religious leaders, however, Athens refuses to recognise the mufti elected by the ethnic Turkish community and appoints the mufti itself.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been a vocal critic of Greece’s treatment of its Turkish Muslim minority in the Western Thrace region.
The council meeting in Brussels follows a call by European Parliament on Wednesday to EU leaders for the formal suspension of Turkey’s EU accession talks, which began in 2005.
Brussels reiterated its concerns over Turkey’s continuing backsliding in the areas of fundamental rights and the rule of law, as well as the deterioration of the independence and functioning of the judiciary, Kathimerini said.
Ankara has slammed the European Parliament’s call with ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik saying the decision was “worhless, null and disreputable.”