Police said Monday they have arrested a 27-year-old third country national in connection with a fire at a Larnaca mosque, which apparently had no nationalist or racial motives behind it, as Turkish Cypriot politicians sought to exploit the incident.
The incident also irked Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who warned the culprits with punishment.
The fire at the Buyuk Cami had been set on Wednesday night and caused some damage to the door before it was put out.
Police said the case was reported to them the next day and after investigating, officers arrested a 27-year-old man from a third country in connection with the incident.
As the issue appeared to be blown out of proportion in the north, fanned by certain circles, a member of the bicommunal technical committee on cultural heritage, revealed that the fire had nothing to do with racial or nationalist motives.
Sotos Ktoris said it was an unfortunate incident in which “a homeless Syrian migrant attempted to set fire to the mosque after the hodja refused to let him sleep there at night.”
Ktoris said the damage was minimal.
“We ought to set things in their correct dimension to avoid an unnecessary and damaging fight relating to the two sides’ religious monuments,” he said on his Facebook page. “As Cypriots we respect all religious monuments and places of worship. It is a matter of culture, and the monuments are part of the common cultural heritage of the country.”
President Erdogan threatened that those responsible would pay a heavy price.
“Of course, this attack in south Cyprus will not remain unanswered,” he said before departing for Qatar. “Do not commit such acts of sabotage at our temples. You will pay a heavy price for your participation in such a sabotage.”
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said Greek Cypriots continued to vandalise mosques, referring to the intercommunal strife in the 1960s and 1974 Turkish invasion.
“I strongly condemn the fact that while our appeals for dialogue with the Greek Cypriot side aiming at an agreement in the Cyprus problem continue, it was attempted to demolish the Buyuk Cami in Larnaca by setting it on fire,” he said in a written statement.
The attack was condemned by other Turkish Cypriot politicians.