Athens shoots down Turkish allegations over minority schools in Thrace

Athens shoots down Turkish allegations over minority schools in Thrace

Greece’s Foreign Ministry has issued a terse response to allegations from Turkey regarding the closure of four minority primary schools in the northeastern province of Thrace, which, Ankara claims constitutes a violation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne provisions safeguarding the rights of Muslims in the area.

“Ankara is regrettably once again turning reality on its head in order to put forward positions which are unsubstantiated. We reject them through and through,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Papaioannou said on Saturday.

Papaioannou said that Greek authorities decided to suspend the schools’ operation because they did not meet the minimum required number of nine pupils. He said a total of 29 non-minority primary schools had been closed for failing to meet the same standard.

“Therefore, it cannot be claimed that minority pupils are been subjected to unfair treatment,” he said.

“The educational policy decisions of the Greek state are made on the basis of equity and without discrimination for all Greek citizens, with the exclusive purpose of providing high quality education,” he said.

The spokesman furthermore said that 99 minority primary schools will operate in Thrace in the next academic year. Meanwhile, he said, only three Greek minority schools will operate in Istanbul, one on the northeastern Aegean island of Imvros, while no classes will be held on nearby Tenedos.

“The Muslim minority in Thrace numbers approximately 120,000 people. The Greek minority in Turkey does not exceed 3,000 people, while at the time of the Lausanne Treaty their numbers were equal. Regrettably for Turkey, the numbers speak their own undeniable truth about who respects and who implements the Lausanne Treaty,” he said.

In a statement on Friday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic accused Greece of carrying out “discriminatory and oppressive policies” against what he described as the “Turkish minority” in Thrace.

“The Republic of Turkey will continue to support the minority’s struggle for its rights and justice, both in bilateral contacts and international platforms,” he said.

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