BY GEORGE DER PARTOGH–LONIAS EFTHYVOULOU From The Cyprus Weekly
Cyprus and Armenia have denounced Turkish plans to convert the ancient Armenian monastery of Sourp Magar (St. Makarius) on the northern fee of the Kyrenia mountain range into a hotel.
In Nicosia–all party leaders condemned the proposed conversion while in Yerevan–acting foreign minister Vartan Oskanian–in a letter to his Cypriot counterpart–asked the Cypriot government to "undertake necessary action and join the Armenian side" in protesting to the United Nations and UNESCO.
In New York–Cyprus’ permanent representative at the UN Sotos Zackheos–sent a letter to the Secretary-General which was circulated as an official document to the General Assembly.
"This conversion," he said–"is in violation of the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of armed conflict and the Declaration of Principles of International Cultural Cooperation adopted by the General Conference of UNICEF."
Zackheos noted that the planned illegal conversion of the monastery "will do irreparable damage not only to the Armenian people and the Armenian Church–but also to the cultural and historical character of Cyprus.
He went on in his letter: "This latest development is yet another cogent example of Turkey’s intransigence–intention and determination to alter the indigenous character of the occupied area of Cyprus". The monastery was built in the fourth century and is considered to be one of the most significant places of worship for the Armenian people in general. It was looted–vandalized and almost completely destroyed by Turkish troops during and after the 1974 invasion.
In Antelias–Lebanon–Catholicos Aram–twin head of the Armenian Church–wrote to UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor to say: "Such a plan seriously injures the Armenian people–the Armenian Church–and our ancient culture and religious practice. It also violates the spirit and intent of international conventions for which UNESCO has oversight responsibility.
"I urge you to take the necessary steps to stop the execution of this illegal project which represents an unconscionable act against our religious values and the spiritual and cultural heritage of Cyprus"–the Catholicos said.
Speaking at yesterday’s session of the House–Armenian Representative Bedros Kalaydjian quoted the Turkish Cypriot daily newspaper Birlik which said that the monastery which combines mountain–forest and sea would be converted into a hotel. He quoted Birlik as saying: "What will be done to the Armenian monastery will serve as an example for other historical sites". Kalaydjian appealed to the government and people of Cyprus to help his community by taking action at parliamentary and diplomatic levels and added: "The Armenian people cannot and should not remain indifferent in the face of acts that defile our religious and national feelings". He also told the Cyprus Weekly. "Cyprus is a multi-cultural society in which Greek–Maronite and Armenian cultures form an overall part of the Cypriot heritage.
"Sourp Magar is the only Armenian monastery in the area and that is why we must all protect it with all the means in our power. "Now is the time for action. Tomorrow might be too late"–he said.
A large crowd of young and old Armenia’s stood outside the House with placards reading "Genocide continues"–"One people one destiny"– "Hands off the Armenian monastery". Boy Scouts and Cubs from Larnaca–schoolchildren–and students of the Melkonian Educational Institute lined the road in front of the Parliament building holding Cypriot flags and the red–blue and orange banner of the Republic of Armenia.
Shortly before the session of the House–Armenian Representative Bedros Kalaydjian–accompanied by Bishop Varoujan Hergelian and religious and civic leaders–met House President Spyros Kyprianou and handed him a petition asking for the support of the Parliament.
All party leaders agreed in condemning this latest Turkish act and denouncing it to all Parliamen’s–World organizations and governmen’s through official demarches by the government and the House of Representatives.
DISY Chairman Nicos Anastassiades assured the Armenian community of support in the joint struggle and stressed that the message must be given and that there is no room for Turkish chauvinism and barbarity which must prevent Turkish accession to the EU.
AKEL General Secretary Demetris Christofias recalled Turkish ethnic cleansing through the Armenian Genocide and suggested a special House Committee to prepare measures for joint action.
EDEK Chairman Vassos Lyssarides stressed that it was a permanent Turkish policy to wipe out any trace of what it cannot absorb through genocide and he cited the pogroms against the Pontian Greeks –the Armenia’s–and now the Kurds. Yet–he said–the Turks stand on the threshold of Europe. Protest action must be taken fast he stressed.
Former DIKO MP Alexis Ghalanos–said this was another Turkish blow against civilization which illustrated the true Turkish character.
He underlined the need to mobilize the Greek and Armenian lobbies in the US and suggested sending Armenian representative Bedros Kalaydjian on a mission to the US and the EU to inform the international community and prove the problem is not only Greek Cypriot–but involves all communities. Former DISY President Yiannakis Matsis said that the matter must be raised in Strasbourg.
Maronite Representative Antonis Hadji Roussos expressed full support for the protest efforts suggested by the House members and condemned the Turkish actions.
House President Spyros Kyprianou asked the House to authorize him to lodge official protests to the UN Secretary General–the Council of Europe–the EU–UNESCO–the World Council of Churches–world parliamen’s and powers and called for further discussion.
Armenian Community Thanks House
The Cyprus Weekly
The Armenian community thanked the House of Representatives this week for its fast reaction to the threat to the Armenian monastery in the occupied area by the occupation authorities.
A delegation under Bishop Varoujan Hergelian appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss action–in the face of the announcement by the Denktash regime convert the Armenian monastery of Sourp Magar (Saint Makarius) at Halefka on the Turkish-occupied Pentataktilos Range–into a hotel at a cost of $1m.
Last Thursday–the Parliamentary Representative of the Armenian community Bedros Kalaydjian–informed the House Plenary session of the destruction of this destruction of this cultural heritage of his community and appealed for help.
Unanimously–MPs authorized House President Spyros Kyprianou to take immediate action and lodge a protest with all parliamentary groups and international organizations and to take any other action deemed necessary.
At the committee meeting–Dr. Yiannakis Georgiades–Director of the House Foreign Affairs Department–informed the Armenian delegation and the committee that "a written protest demarche had already been lodged by Mr. Kyprianou with all Parliamentary organizations–the Speakers of the Senate and House of Representatives of the US Congress and the Presidents of all EU Parliamen’s."
He added the protest included all the facts provided by the Armenian community and the special committee formed by it under Bishop Hergelian. Kalaydjian again expressed the anguish and concern of the community over the conversion of the monastery–saying: "We know already of the destruction of this item of our cultural heritage and are gravely concerned." The Armenian committee also produced photographs of the destruction.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman reviewed action taken since last autumn to verify the situation with the help of the Armenian community–and pointed out that immediately after the Denktash announcement–instructions were issued to all Cyprus Foreign diplomatic missions to take action. He added that demarches have already been lodged with the UN Secretary General and have been circulated as official UN Security Council and General Assembly documen’s.
Representations were also made to the Council of Europe and all its bodies–while Cyprus embassies have protested with the foreign ministries of their country accreditation.
He said:" We have had a reaction from the so-called ‘Director of Museums’ of the Denktash pseudostate.
"They now cite the Amsterdam Declaration of 1954 in order to justify what they are doing. It states that (structures) ‘of cultural heritage must be brought to life in a functional way and livable state.’ They also accuse us of treating the matter like a child whose toy has been snatched from its hands."
Kevork Zeytountzian–member of the Armenian delegation–described protest action being taken by the Armenian Church through the World Council of Churches–as well as by the Armenian state and underlined the mobilization of the Armenian community which–with the help of the House of Representatives–is also taking action.
Committee Chairman–DIKO MP Tassos Papadopoulos suggested more ways of protesting–such as the strong Armenian lobby in the United States. He underlined that cultural heritage is common to all communities and religious denominations–and action must be joint.
"The Turkish occupation authorities do not discriminate between Greek Orthodox or all other Christian even Turkish Cypriot cultural heritage. Yesterday it was ours–today it is your turn and tomorrow someone else’s," he warned.