Turkey on Thursday urged Greece to comply with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decisions upholding the freedoms of the local Turkish minority, following a new Greek ruling that rejected the registration application of the Xanthi (Iskeçe) Turkish Union.
Turkey "rejects the court's decision that contradicts the ECtHR decision and expects Greece to register the NGOs of the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace without discrimination" in line with the European court decisions, said a Foreign Ministry statement.
On Wednesday, an application by the Xanthi Turkish Union, one of the oldest associations of the Turkish minority in Greece, was rejected by Greece's Court of Cassation, denying for a third time the group's nearly four-decade struggle to simply choose its own name.
Under a 2008 ECtHR ruling, Turks in Western Thrace's right to use the word "Turkish" in the names of associations was guaranteed, but Athens has failed to carry out the ruling, effectively banning the Turkish identity.
Greece's Western Thrace region is home to a Muslim Turkish community of around 150,000.
In 1983, the nameplate of the Xanthi Turkish Union was taken down and the group was completely banned in 1986, on the pretext that the word "Turkish" was in its name.
To apply the ECtHR decision, in 2017 the Greek parliament passed a law enabling the banned associations to apply for re-registration, but the legislation included major exceptions that complicated the applications.
Turkey has long decried Greek violations of the rights of its Muslim and Turkish minority, from closing down mosques and shutting down schools to not letting Muslim Turks elect their own religious leaders.
These measures violate the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne as well as ECtHR verdicts, making Greece a state that flouts the law, say Turkish officials.
As Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu noted during his joint press conference with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in April, Greece fails to recognize Turkish Muslims as Turkish Muslims.
Referring to the Turkish minority in Western Thrace, Çavuşoğlu stressed: "If they say they are Turkish, they are Turkish. You have to accept it ... Turkey has implemented many inclusive practices with regard to its minorities. Such a positive approach is what we expect from Greece concerning its Turkish Muslim minority in Western Thrace."
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