Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that he would allow the re-opening of the Theological School of Halki if Greece allows at least one mosque in Thessaloniki.
“Turkey is in favor of the immediate re-opening of the Theological School of Halki, provided that Greece will allow the operation of at least one mosque in Thessaloniki,” said Erdogan during a meeting on the subject of the Armenian genocide.
Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported that the Turkish president wants to “bargain” with Greece for the re-opening of the Halki Orthodox seminary in Turkey.
The theological school was the primary religious instruction institution of the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul and was shut down by Turkish authorities in 1971.
According to the report, Erdogan wants the Greek government to allow the opening of a mosque in the northern city Thessaloniki, which is the birthplace of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
The report cites Mustafa Armagan, a Turkish magazine editor who was present at the meeting Erdogan hosted for historians and academics. Armagan quoted the Turkish president as saying that Ankara is willing to “trade” an immediate re-opening of the Halki theological school in exchange of at least one mosque in Thessaloniki.
Greece’s position is that the building of mosques in the predominately Orthodox Christian country is not a bilateral Greek-Turkish matter, whereas the Halki seminary’s re-opening deals with religious freedom in Turkey, the rights of the small Orthodox community in Istanbul and Turkey’s international obligations.
Most of the mosques found in Greece are located in the northeast border province of Thrace, where a Muslim minority is hosted. The Muslim community’s rights are expressly listed in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, as are the Greek community’s rights in Turkey.