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Limassol mosque attack causes friction with Turkey

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An attack on a Limassol mosque has been roundly condemned by Nicosia and religious leaders but Ankara denounced such actions as detrimental to efforts in reigniting the Cyprus peace process.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades ordered an in-depth investigation into an incident of vandalism at the Koprulu mosque, in Limassol.

The government said it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the vandalism which took place at Koprulu mosque.”

“Such actions that are directed against places of worship are unacceptable regardless of where they come from,” a statement said.

Cyprus religious leaders – Muslim and Christian – also condemned the acts of vandalism that happened on Sunday when petrol bombs were thrown at the mosque (there was no serious structural damage) and graffiti sprayed outside.

Turkey on Monday was quick condemning the act as an attempt to burn down a mosque by Greek Cypriots.

“We condemn the heinous attack on Koprulu Haci Ibrahim Aga Mosque in Greek Cyprus, Limassol province,” said Turkey’s Foreign Ministry in a statement.

Ankara does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus and has no diplomatic ties with Nicosia.

“The Greek Cypriot administration should take the necessary steps in line with freedom of prayer and holiness of prayer sites, and they should catch the perpetrators.

“It is plain as day that anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions will not benefit efforts to solve the Cyprus issue.”

Such attacks not only target Muslims but pose a common threat to all humanity, the statement added.

Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s vice president, also denounced the attack.

“I condemn the attack on the historic Koprulu Mosque…I invite Greek Cypriot authorities to take sincere action in the face of these attacks and catch the perpetrators as soon as possible. Turkey will always stand against violence,” he said on Twitter.

On Sunday at least three petrol bombs were hurled at the mosque, and anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments were spray-painted on its walls, said religious leaders.

In a statement,  the religious leaders said they were very saddened to hear “that petrol bombs were thrown into the sacred premises of the Koprulu Mosque and the outer wall was vandalised with racist graffiti against Islam and immigrants.”

Religious leaders of the island’s five main faiths, Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Armenian Orthodox, Maronite and Catholic, forming the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process sponsored by Sweden, condemned the acts of vandalization.

“We categorically condemn any and all acts of vandalization and disrespect done to sacred places of worship and we are horrified to see such acts of violence and expression of Islamophobia, xenophobia and discrimination.”

They said for the past four years, the mosque in the Ayios Antonios neighbourhood of Limassol “has been one of the positive examples of good and respectful cooperation of all stakeholders involved in advancing religious freedom”.