Turkish health minister makes his first official visit to his country of birth, Greece
ATHENS - Anatolia News Agency
A former Greek citizen, Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu (C) paid a visit to the Acropolis in Athens with his Greek counterpart, Andreas Likourentzos (L) and Turkish Ambassador to Greece Kerim Uras (R). AA photoTurkish Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu made his first official visit March 28 to his country of birth, Greece, since his appointment to his new position following a January Cabinet sweep. Born in Komotini, Western Thrace, to a family of Turkish descent, Müezzinoğlu was stripped of his Greek citizenship at age 28 after having crossed illegally to Turkey to work as a doctor.
Müezzinoğlu told the Turkish media he was excited to have the opportunity to visit Greece and return to his homeland, Western Thrace. “My wife is also from Western Thrace. My father-in-law and mother-in-law still live there. Relatives and loved ones are there. What is more important, we have childhood memories. That's why one of our feet and half of our hearts remain in Western Thrace," he said.
Müezzinoğlu studied medicine in Turkey but could not practice his profession after returning to Greece because of government pressure on people of Turkish descent in Western Thrace. He went back Turkey at the age of 28, crossing the Maritsa river. He lost his citizenship and was subsequently unable to acquire a visa to visit Greecefor 18 years.
Müezzinoğlu said it had been his own wish to pay his first visit as a minister to Greece, adding that he was counting on partnering university hospitals in Edirne and Alexandropouli. "The distance between the towns is 100 kilometers. These are the most appropriate health centers to become 'sister hospitals' and perform [complementary] healthcare," he said.
Meanwhile, the Turkish health minister met in Athens with his Greek counterpart, Andreas Likourentzos. Müezzinoğlu said he had pursued efforts to strengthen neighborly ties since 2004, while noting that the protocols signed in early March in Istanbul to extend the scope of the partnership would lead to more efficient cooperation.
Likourentzos also praised the partnership agreements signed at the Istanbul summit. "I believe from the heart that this sincere cooperation between health ministers will make a serious contribution to the friendship between the two countries," he said.
Müezzinoğlu also visited a children's cancer hospital after his meeting with his counterpart.