Government spokesman Konstantinos Letimbiotis has reacted to the reported decision to construct a masjid, a Muslim place of worship, on the grounds of the Apostolos Andreas monastery.
He said the government is monitoring the situation and that it is under investigation by the competent authorities.
“Such matters concerning religious respect and the preservation of cultural heritage must be approached with due care and mutual respect. We are sure it would be considered unthinkable if our side operated a Christian place of worship at the Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca. We expect the same from our Turkish Cypriot compatriots”, he said.
Rumours spread this week surrounding the alleged conversion of a building on the site to be used for Muslim prayer, though the project has not yet been officially confirmed or denied.
The north’s religious affairs directorate told the Cyprus Mail it has not received “any clear information” on the issue. The Foundations administration (Evkaf), which would be responsible for such a project, has not responded to the Cyprus Mail’s attempts to reach out.
Despite this, Turkish Cypriot politicians have also weighed in on the issue, giving mixed reactions to the alleged project.
Social democratic party CTP leader and former ‘prime minister’ Tufan Erhurman said on Wednesday evening that “everyone knows this was not a necessity”.
He added that “the cultural heritage on this island belongs to all of us. Is there ever a problem with our places of worship in the south? Say whatever the problem is and let’s protect the cultural heritage together.”
He urged those in favour of the plans to “learn some diplomacy,” and said “get on the right footing and show that we defend all of the cultural heritage on the island”.
“You have no right to make such strange attempts to play on tension [between the two sides of Cyprus] or bring the sensitivity and civilisation of the Turkish Cypriot people into the discussion,” he added.
On the other hand, ‘transport minister’ Erhan Arikli accused those criticising the reported decision of having “verbal diarrhoea, which can only be solved by psychologists.”
He claimed that those against it “with the first light of the morning start their day by running to Facebook and seriously thinking ‘what excuse should I find today to get Turkey or the TRNC to pay?’”
He called criticism of the project “nonsense and worthless” and “absurd” and claimed that “the aim is to generalise that statement and target all of Turkey and Turkish officials.”
Turning to the issue at hand, he said “first of all, not only Christians visit Karpasia. Muslims go there too. A place of worship is their right, too. Foundations build mosques or masjids wherever needed.”
“Secondly, as is common in the Christian world, the Church in Cyprus has built large and small monasteries, chapels, and churches all over the island in the past, whether there are people there or not,” he added.
Despite the brewing storm over the issue, no Greek Cypriot politician has yet made a statement on it.
The Cyprus Mail has contacted the office of Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, ‘prime minister’ Unal Ustel, and Rizokarpaso ‘mayor’ Hamit Bakirci for comment.