ATHENS — Already dueling over rights to the Aegean and East Mediterranean, Turkey and Greece are now swapping shots over how each country treats their Greek and Muslim minorities.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry was upset after Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias called on Turkey to respect the rights of the Greek minority on the Turkish islands of Imvros and Tenedos as well as in Constantinople.
The islands were ceded to Turkey as part of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t recognize when it comes to islands given to Greece.
Turkey calls Tenedos by the name of Bozcaada and Imvros as Imroz and Greece has long been anxious about how Greeks living on the island near the coast of Turkey have been treated, as on Imvros.
“Turkey should finally understand that the Greek minority on Imvros and Tenedos and in Istanbul are not an enemy for the rest of Turkish society. On the contrary, they are an integral part of its historic course and a reference point for the friendship and peaceful co-existence between our peoples,” Dendias was quoted by Greece’s Athens-Macedonian News Agency as saying during an online New Year’s ceremony of the Imvros Residents’ Association.
He said the group has worked for years to point out injustice and suppression that Greeks on Imvros have endured at the hands of Turkish authorities, adding that the ministry will keep up support “to invigorate the presence of the islanders in their homeland, with the settlement there of new families.”
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry called those comments “tragicomic,” and accused Greece of carrying out a “policy of assimilation and repression” on the Muslim minority of Thrace.
It claimed Greece has violated treaties and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights with regards to its Muslim minority in the northeast of the country, referring to the community as Turkish.
“Before making such dire statements, the Greek foreign minister should look in the mirror and sweep the front of his own house first,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry retorted.
During a visit to Thrace in 2017, Erdogan said Lausanne Treaty, which defined the borders of the modern Turkish Republic and determines the rights of Greece’s Muslim minority, isn’t fairly applied and requires revision.
“This is an agreement signed 94 years ago,” Erdogan said. “Many things have changed and new issues have emerged between Turkey and Greece in this period.”