Erdogan builds tension with Greece over Muslim rights claim
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised Greece for allegedly violating the 99-year-old Treaty of Lausanne over the rights of Muslim citizens.
Erdogan, whose popularity is plunging as he looks for re-election, in a statement marking the anniversary of the 1923 treaty accused Greece of undermining the rights of its Muslims in Thrace. Thrace is approximately 32 per cent ethnic Turk, Roma and Bulgarian-speaking Pomak.
“The conditions registered in the treaty, especially the rights of the Turkish minority, have been ignored or deliberately eroded,” Erdogan’s statement said. “It is not possible for our country to accept this situation, which is incompatible with good neighbourly relations and loyalty to the treaty.”
The 1923 treaty was signed by the newly established Republic of Turkey, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, to settle disputes with Greece and the victors in the First World War after the Turkish War of Independence.
The treaty enshrined the rights of the Muslims that remained in Greece and Christians in Turkey after numerous massacres of minorities and population exchanges. It placed the Aegean islands to Greece, despite their proximity to Turkey’s coast.
Turkey is complaining that Greece is violating the treaty by militarising its islands. Greece claims to following international law and defending its territory amid constant Turkish hostility.
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently called on Turkey to explain a map shared on social media showing Greek islands in the Aegean as belonging to Turkey.
The map was reportedly a gift from the ultranationalist Grey Wolves to Devlet Bahceli, the leader of a nationalist party allied with Erdogan.
A photo of the map was tweeted, claiming the “glorious Turkish flag” was “usurped by Greece”.
“Take a good look at this map. Crete, Rhodes, Lesvos, Chios, Samos all consumed by Turkey,” Mitsotakis tweeted.
“Α fever dream of extremists or Turkey’s official policy? Another provocation or the true goal? President Erdogan must make his position clear on his junior coalition partner’s latest antics.”
On Friday, Turkey’s foreign ministry said four Muslim schools had recently been closed in Thrace, condemning “discriminatory and oppressive policies” by the Greek authorities.
Greece called the allegations unsubstantiated, saying the schools had been suspended because pupil numbers fell below a minimum threshold.
The two countries have ongoing disagreements over Cyprus, drilling for natural gas and the sovereignty of uninhabited Aegean islets.
In June Erdogan, who is keen distract attention from rampant inflation and rising poverty levels with a presidential election looming, ended talks with Greece.
The Turkish navy is accused of encroaching on Greek waters. Picture credit: Wikimedia