ANKARA, APR 17 – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday condemned the latest move by Greece on appointing the chief mufti and Athens’ treatment of Turkish descendants in Western Thrace.
“Under Treaty of Lausanne, Greece has no right to appoint the chief mufti for Muslims as Turkey does not have the right to appoint the patriarch in our country,” said Erdoğan after attending the commemoration ceremony of Turkey’s late President Turgut Özal.
“Not Greek officials but our muftis and imams have the right to decide on the chief mufti in Greece,” he added.
He also criticized how Athens treated Turkish descendants living in the country, saying that “some 150,000 people of Turkish descent live in Western Thrace today, but Greece does not show them the respect those citizens deserve”.
He said Turkey has tried to fix relations by negotiating with all the Greek governments so far, but none of those efforts have borne fruit.
The election of muftis is regulated by the 1913 Treaty of Athens, a Greek-Ottoman pact that was implemented by Athens in 1920.
But in 1991, in violation of international law, Greece annulled its law regarding the treaty and unlawfully started to appoint muftis.
The muftis appointed by Greece have since usurped local Muslims’ right of jurisdiction on family and inheritance matters.
The majority of Muslim Turks in Western Thrace do not recognize muftis appointed by Greece and instead rightfully elect their muftis.
Greece, however, has refused to recognize elected muftis since 1991 and authorities have placed some clerics on trial.