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German Chancellor condemns destruction of religious sites in occupied Cyprus
2007-05-17 12:27:13

Brussels, May 16 – European Union current President, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has stressed that the Union cannot turn a blind eye to the destruction of churches and other religious sites in the Turkish occupied-part of Cyprus.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pettering echoed her comments, saying that EU principles and values provide for respect of freedom, justice, peace and solidarity.

Speaking at a press conference, after a meeting on Tuesday of the three monotheistic religions (Christian, Islam, Judaism) Ms. Merkel also said that everybody agrees that people’s dignity must not be violated.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to the destruction of churches or other religious sites in some countries, as we see it happening in the northern part of Cyprus,” she said.

She added that all factors should be taken into consideration, given the principles on which the EU has been founded, and said religion is one such factor that is important for society.

Mr. Barroso pointed out that the principle of human dignity is at the core of EU values and recalled the Berlin declaration by the 27 EU leaders which stipulates exactly that – the EU is a Union of values and human dignity governs all common values within Europe, freedom, justice, peace and solidarity.

He also said the next such meeting will take place in the first half of 2008 under the Slovenian EU presidency.

Head of the Cyprus Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, who was present at the Brussels meeting welcomed their position and stressed: “While no religious differences existed, as Turkish troops invaded in 1974 and with the encouragement of the Turkish military, some 500 churches have been pillaged and destroyed, in addition to the theft of precious icons and frescoes, which are now being sold in the European and US black markets.”

The meeting was attended by 20 representatives of the three religions.

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