PACE Intervenes to Prevent Conversion of Armenian Monastery Into Hotel

NICOSIA (Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation)–The Armenian Monastery of Sourp Magaravank–located on the Turkish occupied northern section of Cyprus–is under the threat of being desecrated for purposes of private enterprise.

According to the Turkish-Cypriot press–the monastery–has been "leased out" for a period of 49 years to Turkish businessman Dervish Sonmezler–who has already announced his intention of converting it to a hotel.

The announcement has led to a storm of protests raised by the Armenian lobby at the Parliamentary Conference of the Council of Europe (PACE)–which is persistently demanding the reversal of the decision.

The Turkish-Cypriot press reports the PACE invited the so-called Chairman of the pseudostate’s Assembly Ertugrul Hasipoglu together with a delegation to Strasbourg. At the meeting–the issue of the Armenian Monastery and the canceling of the "contract" was discussed.

Hasipoglu told the news agency that he was called to Strasbourg following the complaint raised by the Cyprus government regarding the Monastery. He said that at the meeting he defended the view that "they can use the monastery as they please."

Businessman Dervish Sonmezler said that with the permission from the so-called Council of Ministers in 1997 he leased the Monastery to turn it to a touristic establishment. However–after the meeting in Strasbourg the "lease contract" was canceled and the restoration work was halted.

Sonmezler claimed that the issue was kept secret and no statement was made to this effect for the last two years.

"Let them allow me either to turn the monastery into a touristic establishment or take it back," said Sonmezler.

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