Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Sunday began his trip to Greece, with a tweet about an unofficial visit to the northeastern province of Thrace prompting angry reactions from Athens.
Greece reacted angrily on Sunday after Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter upon landing in Western Thrace that he was on his way to meet leaders of the Turkish Minority in Komotini.
"In Greece to meet members of Turkish Minority in Western Thrace and discuss our bilateral relations," Cavusoglu tweeted.
Turkey’s top foreign diplomat also visited Turkish schools, saying he was later planning to discuss with Greek officials “the subject of the rights of the Turkish minority in Western Thrace.”
The two foreign ministers clashed openly last month at a news conference in Ankara following a meeting aimed at easing months of tension between the two historic rivals
But Cavusoglu’s statements drew a strong reaction from the Greek foreign ministry, which rejected the word “Turkish” and pointed to a “Muslim minority in Thrace.”
Alexandros Papaioannou, Greek foreign ministry’s spokesman, said Athens remained “firmly committed to international law and the protection of human rights” and accused Turkey of constantly trying to “distort reality.”
“Greece would like to improve relations with Turkey. Respect for international law is a prerequisite,” Papaioannou said.
Cavusoglu’s comments and tweets came ahead of his official meetings scheduled for Monday in Athens with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.
The two foreign ministers clashed openly last month at a news conference in Ankara following a meeting aimed at easing months of tension between the two historic rivals.
Dendias had warned that Turkey’s EU membership aspirations were at odds with Ankara’s actions, citing a number of issues including treatment of Greek minority in Turkey.
Cavusoglu fought back accusing his guest of “bringing up only what suits you.”
“If you want to continue our tensions, we can. If we go into mutual recriminations here, we have a lot to tell each other,” Cavusoglu said.
A century after the two countries fought a war that displaced more than a million people on both sides, Turkey says the roughly 120,000-strong Muslim community in the region is a Turkish minority, a position rejected by Athens, which describes them as Greek Muslims.
Cavusoglu said he was visiting Greece with a “positive agenda” but his trip to Western Thrace prior to his official visit in Athens has raised eyebrows in the Greek capital.