By Peter Stevenson
PAPHOS Municipality was ordered by the interior ministry yesterday not to remove any temporary structures set up by Muslim worshippers on land that falls under the jurisdiction of the Guardian of Turkish Cypriot Properties.
Muslim representatives had been given notice a week ago that the temporary structures they had set up for worship in a parking lot in Kato Paphos did not meet town planning regulations and needed to be removed.
They cited land registry records saying that a room belonging to a Turkish Cypriot fisherman who was a permanent resident in the area 70 years ago had been designated as an area of prayer and worship. They argued that the parking lot which they now use for worship could eventually be turned into a mosque.
Initially the Muslims had used the parking lot’s surrounding area but over time they took advantage of the fact that nobody could officially intervene and erected illegal constructions. Their structures are in the vicinity of monuments protected by UNESCO and the Department of Antiquities.
There are currently around 2,000 Muslims living and working in the Paphos district.
A meeting was held yesterday at the district administration office between Muslim representatives, the municipality and officials from Guardianship.
Paphos district officer Yiannakis Mallourides proposed that the Muslim representatives submit their plans for the area by next Friday but in the meantime remove their illegal structures.
Paphos municipality architect Androulla Efthimiou pointed out to representatives that even a request by Paphos Bishopric to build a church on church land had been rejected as it did not meet the building permit requirements.
According to reports district officials were split with some saying the structures should be torn down as the deadline had expired while others felt that more time should be given to allow the Muslim community to disassemble them.
Paphos Deputy Mayor Makis Roussis said that it was a very sensitive subject and said that time was needed until next Friday for the structures to be brought down.
He added that he had received a number of letters from town councillors to call a meeting to finally decide on a course of action.
The interior ministry stepped in before any decision could be made and blocked any move by Paphos Municipality with more discussions due to take place next week.