Turkish FM in landmark visit to minority leaders
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) is seen during an unprecedented visit to Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew at the patriarchate in the Fener district of Istanbul. Davutoğlu emphasized the importance of peace between religious communities.Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu paid landmark visits to Turkey’s minority religious leaders in Istanbul on March 3, discussing regional problems in the Middle East as well as underlining the importance of dialogue, religious freedoms and equal rights.
The visits marked the importance of dialogue between Muslims and Christians and other religious groups amid ongoing tensions between Muslims and Christians in the Middle East and the Balkans, sources from the Turkish Foreign Ministry told Hürriyet Daily News on March 4.
Davutoğlu first received Deir Za’faran Monastery Metropolitan Saliba Özmen at the Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul. During the meeting with Özmen, Davutoğlu stressed the importance Turkey attached to dialogue in surrounding countries, reports said.
Davutoğlu later visited Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew in the patriarchate in Istanbul’s Fener district, and the two later held a press meeting.
“We are going through a transformation in the Middle East. Turkey’s peace is related to the peace of its surrounding countries. We are giving high importance to all religious communities in the region to be in peace,” Davutoğlu told reporters.
Bartholomew, meanwhile, expressed his pleasure with Davutoğlu’s visit and said it was important that all religious minorities in Turkey live together in peace.
“We have told Minister Davutoğlu that we pray for the health of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan daily. Erdoğan’s health is important for not only Turkey but global peace as well,” Bartholomew added.
Bartholomew and Syriac Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation head Kuryakos Ergün visited Turkish Parliament on Feb. 21 and made a presentation regarding Turkey’s new charter talks.
“Davutoğlu’s visit in fact focused on Bartholomew because he wants him and other Christian religious leaders to play a role in the Middle East. His real aim it to reach the Christian communities in the Middle East through Bartholomew,” Laki Vingas, the spokesman for Anatolian Greek foundations and a member of the Foundations General Council, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Following the press meeting, Davutoğlu continued his tour and paid visits to the acting Turkish-Armenian Patriarch Aram Ateşyan, the Ancient Syriac Community’s Metropolitan Yusuf Çetin and Chief Rabbi İshak Haleva and spoke about equal rights.
“For us the rights of all our citizens are equal. Together we will overcome the prejudices that are contradictory to this big culture that Turks and Armenians built together,” Davutoğlu said following his meeting with Ateşyan.
Ateşyan said it was the first time a Turkish government remembered their community and said Davutoğlu’s visit was very meaningful.
The visits took place at a time when Christian groups in the Middle East feel worried about their future during the Arab Spring, and it is normal for Turkey to be involved in such an undertaking of continuing dialogue with minority religious groups, the Foreign Ministry sources said.
Daily News reporters Vercihan Ziflioğlu and İpek Yezdani contributed to this report.