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Solution hope for Armenian Church

The Swedish Embassy in Cyprus is playing a key role in attempting to reach an agreement for members of the Armenian Ortodox Church to again worship at their historic Sourp Asdvadzadzin Church in Lefkosa.

The Church was gifted to the Armenian cmmunity by Ottoman rulers of Cyprus in 1571 and was restored between 2009 and 2013 with a 2.6 million euro grant from the United Nations Action for Co-operation and Trust in Cyprus (UNDP-ACT). Controversy followed, however, when Vakiflar the TRNC's religious and cultural trust, granted a 10-year lease of the church complex to the Near East University - Which announced plans to use part of it to house a Turkish-Islamic cultural centre.

The University said in February that it was withdrawing from the agreement because the Vakiflar had failed to hand over the church on the agreed date and because of negative press reports about its intended use of the church site.

Swedish Embassy offical Peter Weiderud has organised talks between religious groups on the island concerning the future of Sourp Asdvadzadzin Church and he is prepared to do more to reach solution.

The Turkish Cypriot authrorities should allow Armenians to hold services there whenever they want and, on the other hand, Armenians should estabilish contact with the relevant Turkish he said.

The church has potential to renew confidence and develop relations between Turkish Cypriot and Armenians.

Referring to a meeting he helped broker the Armenian Archbishop Varoujan Herkelian and Talip Atalay. leader of TRNC religious Affairs Department Mr Weiderud Said he could arrange similar meetings involving the Vakiflar or other TRNC officals to discuss the issue.

The new director of Vakiflar Ibrahim Benter said he had not yet had an opportunity to study the file on Sourp Asdvadzadzin Church but could see no reason why Armenians should be prevented from holding services there.

Just as we go to the South and hold prayers at Hala Sultan Tekke the Armenians should be able to do so in their church he said.

UNDP-ACT project manager Christopher Louise said they were waiting to discuss the future of the Church with Mr.Benter and wanted to finalise an agreement before UNDP-ACT's involvement finishes at the end of this year.


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