Cyprus Accuses Turkey of Gross Vandalism

NICOSIA (CNA)–Turkey’s most recent provocative acts of plundering of Cyprus’ cultural and religious heritage were brought to the attention of the UN secretary-general–by Cyprus’ Permanent Representative to the UN.

In a letter to Kofi Annan–Sotos Zakheos–points out that the Church of Saint Theodoros in the Turkish-occupied village of Lapithos was vandalized after being abandoned and desecrated.

He also notes that the Shrine of Saint Kourmoutas in Lapithos has been profaned and defiled.

"The documented large-scale destruction of over 500 churches–which continues unabated–is an effort to turkify the occupied areas," Zakheos says.

This is done–he adds–"in violation of the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the Declaration of the Principles of International Cultural Cooperation–adopted by the General Conference of the UNESCO in 1966."

Zakheos remarks that despite the zealous protection of places of worship belonging to all faiths on behalf of the Cyprus government–Turkey "has been resolute in its policy of religious intolerance in the occupied areas and refuses to adhere to international law and the relevant UN resolutions."

"In addition to the other gross violations against religious–cultural and historical monumen’s–reported to you in previous correspondence–Turkey–as the occupying power for more than 24 years–is entirely accountable and fully answerable for these new illegal and wanton acts of vandalism," he remarks.

The Permanent Representative’s letter has been circulated as a document of the 53rd session of the UN General Assembly–under agenda item 62–and of the Security Council.

Turkey illegally occupies 37 per cent of Cyprus’ territory since its invasion of the island in 1974–in violation of numerous UN resolutions calling for the withdrawal of its troops.

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