The head of the Turkish Cypriot religious affairs department Mufti Talip Atalay said he supports the return of Greek Orthodox religious artefacts provided a political decision was made on the matter.
Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis reported on Sunday that hundreds of religious artefacts worth millions have been kept in unsuitable conditions under lock and key in the Kyrenia castle since 1974 when they were removed from Greek Orthodox churches in the wake of the Turkish invasion.
Atalay, according to Havadis, said the return of the artefacts would take a political decision, which they would support.
“These icons belong to the Orthodox Church and proper maintenance and protection are important,” he said. If the icons were in the hands of the Turkish Cypriot community, then it is “our duty to protect them as cultural heritage.”
Havadis said on Sunday that the icons and other religious artefacts were stored in the Kyrenia castle, on shelves, but left without any maintenance.
The paper published photos of various icons, an 1886 gold one of Apostolos Andreas taken from the monastery in the Karpas peninsula, crosses, candle holders, and other implements from various churches in the north.
The report said there was no climate control in the storage rooms, which were very hot, while the icons were gathering dust.
It also said that no one knew the exact number of artefacts stored there and theft had taken place in the past.
A lot of icons and other religious items were on display at various locations in the north, mostly churches that were turned into museums.