Turkish minority communities in Greece have criticized a recent statement by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos that referred to them as a “Greek Muslim minority,” saying that the statement denies their ethnic identity.

The Federation of European Western Thracian Turks said in a statement that the Greek government continues to maintain its policy of denial regarding the national identity of the Turkish minority.

“Our country, Greece, should immediately stop considering the Western Thracian Turkish community a threat and danger and make direct contact with us,” the federation said in a statement, according to a report by Anadolu Agency (AA). The statement continued by noting that although borders have changed throughout history, the Turkish people continue to remain in Western Thrace and preserve their Turkish identity.

The Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association noted that the Greek president’s statements indicate that the country has not reached democratic maturity yet.

“The minority in Western Thrace has always had the desire to be recognized as Turkish, both through its institutions and with its members,” the statement read, adding that they hope this mindset ends soon.

The Iskeçe (Xanthi) Turkish Association also criticized the president’s remarks for denying the ethnic identity of the Turkish minority, while they highlighted determination to ensure the protection of the minority’s will.

The Western Thrace Minority Cultural and Education Corporation also said Pavlopoulos’ statement will not change historical facts.

“The denial of the identity of the Western Thracian Turkish minority means a denial of historical facts,” the corporation said, while the Western Thracian Turkish Teachers’ Association said his statements do not befit a member-state of the European Union.

Pavlopoulos, whose term is expected to end on March 14, recently visited Western Thrace, claiming that the Turkish minority there is a religious minority rather than an ethnic one.