Greece blocking its Muslim minority from electing their own chief muftis violates the landmark 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.
“How do we say that the Treaty of Lausanne is in practice? In this case, Lausanne is not in practice,” Erdogan said in the capital Athens for a historic two-day visit, the first by a Turkish president in 65 years.
He made the remarks at a joint news conference alongside his Greek counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulous.
The mufti election issue has been a chronic problem of Greece’s Muslim Turkish minority -- concentrated in the Western Thrace region -- since 1991.
The election of muftis by Muslims in Greece was covered by the 1913 Treaty of Athens between Greece and the Ottoman Empire and was later included in the Greek Act 2345/1920, near the dawn of the Turkish Republic.
The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne also guarantees the religious freedoms of the Muslim minority in Greece.
However, Greece annulled the Greek Act in 1991 and started appointing the muftis itself.
The majority of Muslim Turks in the Western Thracian cities of Komotini (Gumulcine) and Xanthi do not recognize the appointed muftis and instead elect their own muftis, but the latter are not recognized by the Greek state.
Despite this situation, the appointed muftis in Western Thrace continue to have authority to adjudicate family and inheritance matters of local Muslims.
Turkey has long complained to both Greece and the EU of discrimination against the Turkish minority concentrated in Western Thrace, saying this violates applicable treaties and EU law.
Greece’s Western Thrace region is home to around 145,000 Muslim Turks.