Occupied Cyprus Illegally Leases Historic Armenian Church

The Sourp Asdvadzadin Church in occupied Cyrus

UNDP and USAID Express Dismay, Threaten to Cut Restoration Funding

NICOSIA (Cyprus Mail)—An Organization for religious foundations in the north has leased an historic and beautifully restored Armenian site through an unfair and opaque tender procedure, the United Nations Development Program-Action for Cooperation and Trust (UNDP-ACT) program have said.

EVKAF, that oversees religious foundations in the north, leased in August the 14th century Armenian Church of Sourp Asdvadzadzin and Monastery complex in the Arabahmet area of northern Nicosia that was renovated with UNDP-ACT funds as part of reconciliation efforts.

Press reports from occupied Cypriot named the Near East University as the winner of a ten-year tender to turn the monastery into a cultural center.

According to Vartkes Mahdessian, the Armenian representative in parliament, such a move goes against the project’s original intention.

“The objective was to have a multi-communal area where communities could come together and for the church to be used as a place of worship by the Armenian community,” he said yesterday.

UNDP-ACT echoed Mahdessian’s concerns in a news release yesterday.

Stakeholders worked “to restore the site to international standards so that it could encourage peace and reconciliation between all of the communities in Cyprus,” said the statement from UNDP-ACT and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Although UNDP-ACT and USAID did not name the tender winner, they recently said that they learned that “the site had been leased by EVKAF through a tender process that was neither fair nor transparent.”

“We have expressed our serious concerns to EVKAF about this unacceptable result,” the news release said.

The Cyprus Mail was unable to speak to the UNDP-ACT to clarify the news release.

USAID and UNDP-ACT put 3.5 million euros into what they have called a “visionary endeavour” and a “unique confidence building measure” referring to efforts to build trust among the island’s communities.

“UNDP and USAID look forward to a speedy resolution of this issue so that we can continue to support all communities in Cyprus on cultural heritage initiatives,” the news release said.

Mahdessian said that the news release “enforces our efforts” adding that they have been meeting with diplomats and representations “and we are waiting for an outcome whereby justice will be restored”.

As a first step, the tender procedure must be annulled, Mahdessian said.

According to the UNDP and USAID, the Turkish Cypriot leadership agreed to investigate the outcome and take action “as appropriate”.

The Sourp Asdvadzasin Church complex includes historic buildings partially surrounded by a tall masonry wall and including a Gothic masonry church and part of a monastery complex. It was in poor condition when the decision to fix it was taken.

Mahdessian on Tuesday praised the restoration work, now completed.


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One Comment;

  1. JNdluli said:

    Shame on Near East University!
    By engaging in this process of turning a Holy site into a ‘cultural center’, it has gone against the ethos of a responsible learning institution. It is dis-enfranchising a minority group and thereby failing to foster the social & cultural relations, between the multicultural community of North Cyprus.