Turkish diplomacy in Greece to meet the Turkish-speaking Muslim minority

Yavuz Selim Kiran, Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister, is planning to visit Thessaloniki (pictured) and Western Thrace.

AFP - SAKIS MITROLIDIS

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Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister is in Greece on Wednesday and Thursday to meet members of the Turkish-speaking Muslim minority.

The status of this minority remains one of the most sensitive issues in Greek-Turkish relations, undermined in recent months by their rivalries in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara regularly accuses Athens of violating the rights - including religious rights - of its Muslim citizens.

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With our correspondent in Istanbul,

Anne Andlauer

Yavuz Selim Kiran, Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister, is planning to visit Thessaloniki and Western Thrace. His visit, scheduled for the month of Ramadan, should lead him to meet the muftis of Komotini and Xanthi, NGOs and members of the Turkish-speaking minority, as well as in some of its schools and ancient monuments inherited from the Ottoman era.

For Ankara, the status of this minority of around 150,000 people, mostly Muslims, is a highly sensitive issue.

She accuses Athens in particular of violating their religious rights by preventing them from electing their muftis, who are appointed by the Greek state - contrary to what was provided for in a Greco-Ottoman treaty.

During a recent visit to Ankara by the head of Greek diplomacy, his Turkish counterpart took him to task on this subject, also reproaching Greece for designating the members of this minority only by their religion - Muslim - and of refuse to consider them as ethnically "Turks".

Ankara wishes to include these questions in the framework of its bilateral negotiations with Athens, but it is faced with the latter's refusal.

► See also:

Verbal clash between Turkish and Greek ministers in front of the press in Ankara

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