Turkish PM sends good-will letter to Cyprus Archbishop
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sent a personal letter to Cyprus' Archbishop Chrysostomos, in a gesture indicating he wants a quick solution to the Cyprus problem, Xinhua reported.
A high-ranking church official revealed on Monday night that Erdogan told Archbishop Chrysostomos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, that he has given his personal approval for the conservation and restoration of the historic monastery of Apostle Andreas in the Turkish Cypriot north.
The monastery is considered to be a symbol of Christianity in Cyprus and is an important worship site for Christian Orthodox Greek Cypriots.
This is the second time in a week that the Turkish prime minister makes a good-will gesture toward Greek Cypriots.
Last week, Greek Cypriot newspapers reported an unprecedented meeting of Erdogan with Greek and Turkish Cypriot journalists in Istanbul.
He told them that he was genuinely interested in finding a quick solution to the longstanding Cyprus problem along lines agreed in talks between the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.
Erdogan's letter to Archbishop Chrysostomos is seen as a significant gesture, since the Archbishop is one of the most vocal critics of Turkey's policies on Cyprus, accusing Ankara of promoting a permanent partition of the island.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey militarily intervened and occupied the north of the island following a coup by a group of Greek officers.
In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot authorities declared a breakaway territory and set up "the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," which is recognized only by Turkey.
The Archbishop has been campaigning for years for restoration of the monastery in the area.
Erdogan was said to have given an assurance to Archbishop Chrysostomos that restoration work will be permitted to start soon, after a delay of several years.
The history of the monastery, dedicated to Apostle Andreas, one of Jesus Christ disciples, goes back to the roots of Christianity. According to legend, the monastery was built on the shore at the far-eastern tip of Cyprus where a boat carrying Apostle Andreas from Israel to Rome capsized.
The monastery has suffered considerable erosion after having been left unattended for more than three decades and architects say it is in imminent danger of collapsing.
Conservation work was to have started long ago but was held up by Turkish vendors who refuse to dismantle the tents they set up next to the entrance to the church.