By Merve Aydogan
ANKARA (AA) – Turkey on Monday expressed concern over a draft bill in Greece attempting to remove the autonomous status of the office of muftis, which was assigned by international agreements.
"Our kin in Western Thrace are concerned over the draft bill, aiming to lift the autonomous status of the office of the Mufti that was assigned by international agreements. We expect this amendment regarding the office of the Mufti, which serves the religious needs of minorities, to be reconsidered in line with the feedback and requests of minorities," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said on Monday.
Aksoy added that Turkey also shares the same concerns of the Turkish minorities in country's Western Thrace and urged Greek authorities to end its stance which "disregards elected Muftis".
The Western Thrace region of Greece is home to a Muslim Turkish minority of around 150,000 people, where muftis have the jurisdiction to decide on family and inheritance matters of local Muslims.
The mufti election issue has been a chronic problem of the Muslim Turkish minority since 1991.
The election of muftis by Muslims in Greece was regulated in the 1913 Treaty of Athens between Greece and the Ottoman Empire, and was later included in the Greek Act 2345/1920.
However, Greece annulled this law in 1991 and started appointing the muftis itself.
The majority of Muslim Turks in the cities of Komotini (Gumulcine) and Xanthi (Iskece) do not recognize the muftis appointed by the state and elect their own instead, who are not recognized by Greece.