'Turkey will not stay silent while Turkish minority in Greece suffers'

Deputy foreign minister says Turkey expects Greece to improve rights, living standards for Turkish minority.

'Turkey will not stay silent while Turkish minority in Greece suffers'

No one should expect Turkey to stay silent over violations of the rights of Greece’s Turkish minority, according to Turkey’s deputy foreign minister.

Turkish Muslims in the Greek city of Thessaloniki are upset over the few mosques open for prayer there despite the presence of many Ottoman-era mosques, Yavuz Selim Kiran told a news conference at Turkey’s Consulate General in Komotini late Wednesday.

Kiran is visiting areas of Greece with a sizeable Turkish minority population such as Western Thrace and Thessaloniki.

The Turkish government brought up the lack of open mosques during its contacts with Greek officials, he added.

Turkey is taking the initiative to address this troubling issue, and international organizations – the EU in particular – should call on Greece to take steps on this, said Kiran.

The Turkish government will address a variety of issues the Turkish minority faces, including education, ethnicity, freedom of religion, and the administration of foundation properties, Kiran said, adding that the status of the Turkish minority is guaranteed by international agreements and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.

Stressing that the Greek and Turkish minorities in both countries are like bridges strengthening bilateral ties, Kiran said Ankara hopes Athens will take critical steps to improve the living standards of the Turkish minority.

Turkey would support any positive step by Greece to further minority rights, but no international actor can expect it to remain silent in the face of rights violations, he added.

The Western Thrace region is home to a Muslim Turkish community of around 150,000, and Turkey has protested various Greek policies violating their rights, including Athens' defiance of European Court of Human Rights rulings ordering it to change course.