Turkey on Sunday called Greece's decision of closing more schools belonging to the Turkish minority in Western Thrace "discrimination."
"Discrimination is rule in Greece," Tanju Bilgiç, the Turkish Foreign Ministry's spokesperson, said on Twitter.
Sharing some numbers about the Turkish minority in Western Thrace, Bilgiç said Greece has no kindergartens and only two high schools with insufficient buildings and old textbooks.
He added that Greece does not provide schools in Western Thrace if the total number of Turkish minority students in need of school is less than nine, whereas it is four for the Greek minority students in Turkey.
Bilgiç also noted that the number of teachers for the Turkish minority students is the same as that of the Greek minority students in Turkey, despite the 3,000 Greek minority population in Turkey and 150,000 Turkish minority population in Greece.
On Friday, Turkey condemned Greece's decision of closing four more primary schools belonging to the Turkish Muslim minority in Western Thrace for the 2022/2023 school year.
"With this latest decision, more than half of the minority primary schools have been closed. Thus, Greece's policy of closing primary schools belonging to the Turkish Muslim Minority in Western Thrace through 'temporary suspension' has proven to be systematic," Bilgiç had said in an earlier statement.
Bilgiç reiterated the Turkish minority's right to establish, manage and inspect their own schools under the Treaty of Lausanne signed in 1923, which eventually paved the way for an independent Turkish republic.
He said the recent moves show the "discriminatory and oppressive policies" implemented against the Turkish minority in the field of education.
Bilgiç had also urged Greece to put an end to its discriminatory policies toward Turkish minority schools year after year, adding: "The Republic of Turkey will continue to support the minority's struggle for its rights and justice, both in bilateral contacts and international platforms."
In response, Athens released a statement saying: "Unfortunately, Ankara has entirely reversed reality once again in order to promote positions that do not stand up to scrutiny. We reject them in their entirety. We underscore that the decision to suspend the operation of schools is taken applying exactly the same criteria throughout Greece, that is the non-completion of a minimum number of nine (9) students. For the academic year 2022-2023, only in the Region of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace, in addition to the four (4) minority primary schools, the operation of twenty-nine (29) other non-minority primary schools is suspended as well. Therefore, no one can claim discrimination against minority students."
In a visit to Western Thrace on Sunday, Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kıran also said that the Treaty of Lausanne, which is described as the founding document of the Republic of Turkey, was also the destiny of the Turks of Western Thrace.
"We are followers of the strict fulfillment of every provision of the Treaty of Lausanne, and we are always against and will continue to be against efforts to erode these provisions," he stressed.
In a video message on the 99th anniversary of the Lausanne Peace Treaty, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sunday that Greece has recently been deliberately eroding the terms and conditions of the Lausanne Peace Treaty.
"The terms and conditions of the Lausanne Peace Treaty, particularly the rights of the Turkish minority, have recently been deliberately eroded by Greece," he said.
"It is not possible for our country to accept this situation, which is incompatible with the principle of good neighborly relations and loyalty to the treaty," he added.
The Lausanne treaty was signed on July 24, 1923, after the Turkish victory in the War of Independence.
Describing it as one of the founding documents of the Republic of Turkey, Erdoğan emphasized that Ankara has meticulously monitored its implementation over the past 99 years.
"With the Lausanne peace treaty, our land borders were drawn, capitulations were abolished, rights of the Turkish minority in Greece were secured, and the non-military status of Greek islands close to our coasts was confirmed," he said.
Turkey continues to strengthen its active position in regional and global issues as it takes firm steps toward 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Lausanne treaty and the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, he added.
"We are determined to make every effort for lasting peace and tranquility in the region and to protect the rights of our beloved nation," the president asserted.
Erdoğan also expressed his respect for Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, his comrades, martyrs and veterans.
Greece's Western Thrace region is home to some 150,000 Muslim Turks, whose rights to elect their own religious leaders, found Turkish associations and have their own schools have been denied by Athens in violation of European court orders.