EU to finance restoration of shrines in occupied areas
by Nicos Bellos
Brussels, Feb 3 (CNA) -- The European Commission will finance the restoration of churches and mosques in the northern areas of Cyprus under Turkish occupation from funds intended for the development of Turkish Cypriots, as soon as the Council of Ministers adopts the relevant regulation.
The Commission responded positively to a request put forward by Cypriot MEP Yiannakis Matsis for EU's contribution to the restoration and maintenance of churches and mosques in the areas of Cyprus occupied by Turkish troops since 1974.
According to a press release issued by the Cypriot MEP's office, Director of the Commission's Enlargement Directorate B for Candidate Countries Pierre Miel told yesterday's Joint EU-Turkey Parliamentary Committee that Matsis' request would be fulfilled as soon as the 259 million euros for the financial support of the Turkish occupied areas were released.
Miel thanked Matsis for the briefing regarding the problem of destroyed and abandoned churches in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus.
At the meeting, Matsis also brought up the issue of Turkish settlers in the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus, noting that this was considered an international war crime and altered the demographic nature of the island in an illegal manner.
He added that Turkish settlers, who are the majority in the Turkish occupied areas, illegally voted in the referendum on a UN-sponsored solution plan last April.
In the 24 April 2004 simultaneous referenda, the Greek Cypriot community dismissed the settlement plan proposed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, while the Turkish Cypriot community voted in favour of it.
Matsis pointed out that the settlers voted in favour of the Annan plan.