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Nationalist party leader suggests removing Greek, Armenian references on churches, schools

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The leader of the Grand Unity Party (BBP), a small, nationalist party in Turkey, has suggested that Turkey remove references to “Greek” and “Armenian” on churches and schools belonging to those communities in the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara.

“Let’s make use of the principle of reciprocity and remove the word ‘Greek’ and say Orthodox school or church for those of Greek origin and use the words ‘Gregorian Christian’ for Armenian institutions,” BBP leader Mustafa Destici said at a news conference in parliament on Wednesday.

The BBP leader accused Greece of making decisions that disregard the Turkish identity as Greece refers to the Muslim minority in the country as only Muslim and not Turkish.

The status of Greece’s Muslim minority is one of several points of contention between the two NATO allies.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s description of the minority as “Turkish” ahead of a visit to Greece’s northeastern region near the Turkish border in May prompted an angry response from the Greek foreign ministry.

“The Muslim minority in Thrace has about 120,000 Greek inhabitants,” the ministry said in a statement at the time.

“Turkey’s constant attempts to distort this reality, as well as the allegations of non-protection of the rights of these citizens, or of discrimination, are unfounded and are rejected in their entirety,” it added.

Turkey has often claimed that Greece fails to protect the rights of its Muslim minority, many of whom are of Turkish descent and Turkish-speaking.

Armenian, Greek and Jewish communities in Turkey are regarded as minorities under the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty.

Destici also condemned Greece due to its treatment of Galatasaray football club players who were denied entry into the country on Monday evening after refusing to comply with COVID-19 testing rules.

The players flew to Athens from İstanbul to play in an exhibition game on Tuesday against Greek champion Olympiakos at Giorgios Karaiskakis stadium near Athens. They returned to Turkey after refusing to submit to supplementary COVID-19 tests at the airport because they were carrying negative test results with them.

Destici said Greece does not have the power to make such a decision alone and acts relying on the powers provoking it.

Destici’s BBP is a part of the Public Alliance, which includes President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

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