Illegal Lease of Armenian Church in Occupied Cyprus Revoked

The St. Mary's Church and Monastery Complex in Occupied Cyprus

NICOSIA—Officials at Near East University in Occupied Cyprus announced that they were backtracking from the illegal lease of the historic 14th St. Mary’s Church and Monastery after protests from the US, the Milliyet newspaper reported.

The 10-year lease, which was unfairly granted by an organization for religious foundations in Occupied Cyprus to Near East University was criticized by the United States and United Nations Development Program-Action for Cooperation and Trust (UNDP-ACT), which had funded the restoration of the Armenian Church.

When the leader of Occupied Cyrprus Dervish Eroglu attended the UN General Assembly, he was pressed for an immediate resolution of the matter, with UN officials stressing that the lease went counter to the intent of the project.

The US Ambassador to Cyprus John Koenig also urged leaders of Occupied Cyprus to immediately remedy the situation saying that it would be wrong to turn the Armenian Monastery Complex into a Turkish studies center.

In November, Vartkes Mahdessian, the Armenian representative in parliament, said 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 at the time.

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 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.

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