WASHINGTON, DC – The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) on September 22 released the following statement:
On September 20, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey addressed the United Nations General Assembly, during which he made a series of incendiary and baseless attacks upon Greece. President Erdogan accused Greece of crimes against humanity, stating, “Greece is turning the Aegean into a cemetery for migrants,” and that Greece “with its illegal pushbacks increases the violence against migrants in the Aegean.” During this part of the speech, President Erdogan displayed photos of dead children whom he insinuated were killed by Greece due to “inhumane pushbacks.” In addition, President Erdogan accused Greece of engaging in “political repression and discrimination” against “Turkish minorities of Muslim descent.”
“President Erdogan’s allegations of Greece committing crimes against humanity and of intentionally trying to kill refugees are not only false, but a defamatory attack of the highest order,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “President Erdogan, who slaughters the Kurds in both his own country and abroad, jails journalists, and supports Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups, is in no position to lecture Greece about crimes against humanity.
“In addition, President Erdogan engages in a mischaracterization when he generalizes all of Greece’s Muslim population as Turkish, thus trying to further foment a Greco-Turkish divide. Greece uses the term ‘Muslim minority’, as Greece’s Muslim minority constitutes many different ethnicities, including those of a Turkish background. Furthermore, Greece’s Muslim minority is growing and thriving, as it is respected by the Greek government. Conversely, the Greek Orthodox community in Turkey is on the verge of extinction due to persecution and lack of religious freedom.”
The American Hellenic Institute has long called out the Turkish government’s persecution of the Greek Orthodox minority in Turkey and of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of all three hundred million Orthodox Christians globally. The Turkish government systematically persecutes the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including through the seizure of Church properties, the continued closure of seminaries such as the Halki School of Theology, and the conversion of storied holy sites, such as the Hagia Sophia, into mosques. Furthermore, the Turkish government does not recognize the international legal personality of the Ecumenical Patriarch. The Turkish government, rather than condescendingly lecturing Greece, should itself respect religious freedom and minority rights by recognizing the international legal personality of the Ecumenical Patriarch, returning all illegally confiscated property from the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Turkish government since 1936, reopening the Halki School of Theology, and reverting the status of the Hagia Sophia to a UNESCO-designated museum for all faiths.
In his speech, President Erdogan also stated he wanted “good neighborly relations” with Greece. Yet, President Erdogan also stated, “Whoever tries to conduct shows of force in the area, are not equal and have no relations militarily or politically and makes themselves a joke. In the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean, a continued stability and peace depends on the respect of everybody’s rights and interests.” He added, “we call on Greece to cease its policy of provocations and tension and to respond to the call for cooperation and support.” In addition, President Erdogan called for a “two-state” solution in Cyprus.
Turkey’s 1974 illegal military invasion of the Republic of Cyprus violated the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the Treaty of Establishment, the Treaty of Alliance and Treaty of Guaranty, which established the Republic of Cyprus and guaranteed the independence of the Republic of Cyprus; as well as the United Nations Charter and international law. During the invasion, Turkey forced 170,000 Greek Cypriots were forced from their homes and properties, killed innocent civilians, and committing mass destruction of Cyprus’ cultural and religious heritage, including an estimated 500 churches and religious sites belonging to Christian and Jewish communities. In more recent years, Turkey has encroached illegally into the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus with its survey and drillships that were accompanied by Turkish warships, in violation of Cyprus sovereignty and international law. For the last 48 years, Cyprus, a member of the European Union, has been under an illegal military occupation by Turkey, a member of NATO. President Erdogan’s call for a two-state solution is the apotheosis of almost five decades of brutality and disregard for international law by the Turkish government regarding Cyprus.
U.S. Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH) issued a statement condemning President Erdogan’s speech as “inflammatory and blatantly hypocritical.”
“Congressman Pappas’ criticism and characterization of President Erdogan’s speech is accurate,” President Larigakis said. “It is very ironic that President Erdogan, who very publicly discussed earlier this month invading Greece ‘in the night,’ blames Greece for allegedly engaging in provocations. Furthermore, it is not Greece, but President Erdogan who is the ’joke‘ when he claims that he wants peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, but then proposes to permanently partition Cyprus.”
Larigakis added “President Erdogan’s bellicose remarks at the United Nations do not reflect democratic values and the realities on the ground. It is high time for the international community, and especially the United States, to understand President Erdogan’s comments for what they are.”
The American Hellenic Institute is an independent non-profit Greek American public policy center and think tank that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.
More information about the activities of AHI is available online: http://www.ahiworld.org.