Muslim pilgrims allowed to visit Hala Sultan Tekke irrelevant of their status, FM Kasoulides says

The government addresses the pilgrimage to Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca as a pilgrimage of Muslims, irrelevant of their status, legal or illegal in Cyprus occupied areas, as it always did, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Tuesday.

He also said the government deplores the fact that the Turkish Cypriot illegal regime prohibited earlier this month Greek Cypriot pilgrims visit to Saint Mamas church and will denounce this at the UN because this constitutes a limitation of religious freedom.

The pilgrimage to Hala Sultan Tekke took place on Tuesday to celebrate the Muslim feast of Eid Al Adha or Kurban Bayram.

Responding to questions, Kasoulides noted that they will not get involved “in the game which (Tahsin) Ertugruroglou (so called foreign minister) wants to play with a view to begin limiting contacts between the two communities and the exercising of religious freedom on both sides, once this is an important celebration for every pilgrim.”

Therefore, he added, “we have been handling the pilgrimage to Hala Sultan Tekke as a pilgrimage of Muslims, irrelevant of their status, legal or illegal in the occupied areas, as we always did.”

Responding to a question, he said that there may be illegal settlers among those visiting the Muslim shrine on the west bank of Larnaca Salt Lake, noting that this issue concerns the right to religious freedom and responds to the decision taken during the inter-religious dialogue “which we honour”.

He also said that the Cyprus government also acted in the same way in the case of the visit to Kokkina at the beginning of August, noting that in that case the opening of the Limnitis crossing point serves the inhabitants of Tylliria, which they now need much less time to travel to Nicosia.

Kasoulides also noted that the government does not consider that developments in Crans-Montana must in any way affect this policy.

The Turkish Cypriot side did not grant access to Greek Cypriot pilgrims, wanting to attend celebrations at the Church of Ayios Mamas, in Turkish-occupied Morphou, on September 2, 2017.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The latest round of UN-peace talks ended inconclusively on July 7. Talks held under the auspices of the UN aim at reuniting Cyprus under a federal roof.

Source: Cyprus News Agency