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Turkish Cypriot leader annoyed at Pope ‘snub’

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Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said he was saddened that Pope Francis is not visiting the occupied north of the island, “choosing to visit only the Greek Cypriot Christians”.

Tatar issued a statement extending an invitation to the Pope to visit the north, noting: “There are two people in Cyprus, not just the Christian Greek Orthodox Cypriots, but also the Muslim Turkish Cypriots”.

Reportedly, Tatar extended an invitation to the Pontiff as head of the Vatican State and the spiritual leader of the Catholic people.

He hoped that the Pope would accept his invite, proving that he treated everyone equally.

Tatar claimed the Greek Cypriot side is trying to make political gains out of the Pope’s visit at the expense of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.

“This is fresh proof the Greek Cypriot administration is abusing religious beliefs, and that is very sad,” said Tatar.

“We respect all religions, beliefs, the clergy and Pope Francis, and it is another source of sorrow that Pope Francis will only visit southern Cyprus.

“There are two different peoples in Cyprus, not only Christian Greek Cypriots live in Cyprus, but also Turkish Cypriot Muslims. This is one of the fundamental realities of Cyprus “.

He recalled that Pope Francis visited Turkey in 2014 at the invitation of Tayyip Erdogan.

“The Pope stated that an inter-religious dialogue based on the principle of equality should be strengthened”.

The leader of the main opposition, the leftist Turkish Republican Party, Tufan Erhurman, taunted Tatar on social media.

“The invitation Pope Francis was so eagerly waiting for Tatar to send has finally arrived, even late. Mr Tatar invited the Pope, while he was already on the island, to pay us a visit. The epitome of diplomacy”.

Pope Francis is in Cyprus for an official five-day visit to the Mediterranean island and Greece.

The trip will draw new attention to the plight of migrants on Europe’s borders and the disconnect between countries and the Vatican.

The Pope has called for EU member states to welcome and integrate migrants, but front-line governments have been increasingly unwilling.

The government blames Turkey for systematically sending asylum-seekers to the breakaway north to cross the Green Line.

Francis will meet the Orthodox leaders in Cyprus and Greece and small local Catholic communities.