The government on Thursday said it was committed to respecting the religious heritage of “our Turkish Cypriot compatriots” following reports that a mosque in Limassol had been defaced with racist slogans earlier in the week.

Government spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis said that the graffiti scrawled on the walls of the Limassol mosque “are not racist or religiously intolerant slogans but are related to football teams.”

He added that similar slogans are “unfortunately” found on many other walls in the area. “Instructions have been given to clean up these writings,” Letymbiotis told reporters gathered for the media briefing at the Presidential Palace.

“I want to make it clear that issues related to religious respect and the preservation of cultural heritage are approached by the Republic with due attention and obvious respect,” he said.

“In this framework, last January the government announced 14 measures concerning the daily lives of our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, one of which aims to facilitate access to Muslim monuments in the free areas.

“Finally, as a state that demonstrates practical respect for the religious heritage of our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, we have ensured the preservation of their Muslim religious monuments and, above all, the maintenance of their religious character. None of the Muslim religious monuments has been abandoned or given for other use,” Letymbiotis concluded.

This could be regarded as a reference to the conversion of Orthodox places of worship and the theft of countless religious items from churches in the north since 1974.

The Turkish Cypriot religious endowment foundation Evkaf on Thursday expressed their concern in a statement over the increasing number of attacks on Muslim places of worship, following vandalism at the Albanian mosque in Limassol.

Unknown perpetrators defaced the exterior wall of the mosque, causing damage and writing what were regarded as racist slogans on them.

“We are closely monitoring the growing number of attacks on Muslim places of worship in the Republic in recent years and strongly condemn the unfortunate attack on the Albanian mosque,” the statement said.

“We respect all languages, religions, and races, and we urge the authorities to protect all religious monuments.

“These frequent provocative attacks must stop as soon as possible, and the individuals involved in the incident must be identified promptly by the competent authorities,”

Later on Thursday, the north’s ‘foreign ministry’ also released a statement saying that “the ongoing attacks on the Greek Cypriot side are an expression of racist mentality and intolerance towards Turkish and Islamic existence.”

“The attacks on mosques [in the Republic] are left unpunished and such crimes keep happening.”