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Ankara Condemns Vandalism of Turkish Cemetery in Greek Thrace

Turkey has condemned the destruction of tombstones in a Turkish cemetery in Western Thrace in Greece on Sunday.

“We expect the Greek authorities to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice as soon as possible to ensure that they receive the punishment they deserve and to clarify the reasons behind the incident,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Tanju Bilgic said on Sunday.

Bilgic said Ankara is following Greek investigation to identify the alleged nationalist attackers.

“We have taken note of the statement made by the Greek Secretary General at the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs on this heinous incident, stating that an investigation has been initiated,” Bilgic added.

The Western Thrace region in Greece has a large Turkish ethnic minority that has been an issue in bilateral relations between Ankara and Athens for decades.

“The vandalism of graves in the Muslim cemetery of Polyanthos [Narlikoy in Turkish] in the prefecture of Rodopi is a shame and disgrace that meets with the disapproval of all of us. As soon as the police were informed, they started an investigation to find the culprits and bring them to justice. We hope that this investigation will also provide answers to the motives of such an unthinkable act,” Giorgos Kalantzis, Secretary General at the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, said on Sunday.

Kalantzis added that the Greek state is the guarantor that national “unity will not be threatened by anyone”.

The rights of Turks in Western Thrace and of Greeks of Turkey were guaranteed by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne after a large population swap.

However, over the decades, both sides have accused each other of violating rights and freedoms of their kinsmen in the other state.

“We convey our condolences to our kinsmen living in Narlikoy and share their sorrow. The fact that even the cemeteries of Muslims are being targeted as part of the increasing Islamophobia across Europe demonstrates the importance and urgency of the struggle to defend our common human values,” Bilgic said.

Source : balkaninsight