Turkey has called on Greece to “re-examine” a provision voted through Parliament last month that stipulates Muslim religious leaders (muftis) in the Greek border region of Western Thrace must retire at the age of 67.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy accused Athens on Monday of attempting to remove the autonomous status of the office of muftis.
“Our kin in Western Thrace are concerned over the draft bill aiming to lift the autonomous status of the office of the mufti that was assigned by international agreements,” Aksoy said.
“We expect this amendment regarding the office of the mufti, which serves the religious needs of minorities, to be reconsidered in line with the feedback and requests of minorities,” he added.
Muftis are Muslim legal experts who are empowered to give rulings on religious matters.
Meanwhile, the United Nations special envoy for Cyprus Jane Holl Lute will meet Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias in Athens on Tuesday as efforts intensify to restart talks to reunify the island.
Lute’s visit comes amid renewed calls in European capitals for the process which collapsed in acrimony last year to be kick-started.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday that the European Union accession course of Turkey, which has occupied the island’s north since 1974, hinges on a solution to the Cyprus problem.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides, Maas said it is up to Ankara to decide what its relationship with the EU will be.
Turkey, he said, must fulfill all its commitments to the EU and Cyprus and work toward resolving the island’s division.
Christodoulides will also arrive in Athens on Wednesday for talks with Kotzias.