NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP)-Greek Cyprus’ Orthodox Church said it has sued Turkey for preventing worship at religious sites in Turkish occupied northern Cyprus.
Church lawyer Simos Angelides said Monday the lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights concerns 520 churches, monasteries, chapels and cemeteries. He said the court’s past rulings hold Turkey responsible for Turkish Cyprus because it maintains 35,000 troops there.
Angelides said Orthodox Christian faithful could not worship at those sites because they were either derelict or have been converted to mosques, army barracks, stables or nightclubs.
Cyprus was split into a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south in 1974. The island joined the European Union in 2004, but only Greek Cypriots enjoy the benefits of membership.
Reconciliation talks between Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Dimitris Christofias were launched last year by the United Nations. Talks under Alexander Downer, the former Australian foreign minister, who is the U.N. envoy to negotiations, have made significant progress in a number of areas. However, momentum has slowed as a looming election due to be in held in the Turkish territory next April overshadows the meeting. Turkish voters in northern Cyprus are deeply disillusioned with the prospects of reunification. The Turkish Cypriot leader since 2005, Talat favors reunification and membership of the EU for the whole island but his rivals disagree with him.