Turkey will not assist Athens’ mosque project: Greek gov’t official
ATHENS – Anatolia News Agency
Muslim immigrants pray in a basement of a building in Athens November 30, 2012. Athens is the only European capital without a place of worship for Muslims, said Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Constantinos Tsiaras on Feb. 7. REUTERS photo
A Greek government official denied on Feb. 7 that there was any agreement with Turkey regarding a mosque project in Athens.
Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Constantinos Tsiaras told Greek deputies during a parliamentary meeting that the mosque in Athens would be built entirely with the country’s own financial resources and was not a specific topic on the agenda of Turkish-Greek diplomacy.
“We have told the Turkish [officials] that they continuously try to bring into question this subject in line with their policy in recent years of protecting the rights of Muslims throughout the world… The Greek state has taken this initiative aiming to address the needs of the Muslim population residing in or visiting Athens by offering a place of worship,” said Tsiaras in response to a parliamentary question from the far-right Golden Dawn party.
It has been reported that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered his Greek counterpart Ankara’s help in building a mosque in Athens during a surprise meeting of the two heads of state in Doha on Jan. 30, on the sidelines of Erdoğan’s official visit to Qatar. The meeting took place amid renewed talk of reopening Istanbul’s Halki Greek Orthodox Seminary. The Education Ministry and Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK) have accelerated work for its reopening upon instructions from Erdoğan, the Turkish media had reported. Although Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç didn’t deny the possibility of reopening the Halki Seminary, he strongly criticized the Greek government’s attitude toward Muslims on Jan. 28, particularly on the needs of muftis in the northeastern Western Thrace region, where an important community of Muslim Turks live.
The mosque to be built without a minaret
Tsiaras acknowledged the offers of assistance during the parliamentary session but said the government had declined the financial aid. He also noted that Athens was the only European capital without a place of worship for Muslims, emphasizing that this was putting Greece in a difficult situation in light of criticism from foreign countries.
The mosque will be built in an old navy complex in the Elaiona district of the capital. According to the project, the mosque will be built without a minaret in order to avoid changing the district’s landscape. The Greek state will own the property, while the mosque will be managed by a committee comprising five Greek officials and two Muslims. The imam will be appointed by the Greek Ministry of Educations, Tsiaras added.