The Bicommunal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage decided on Thursday to visit the castle in Turkish-occupied Kyrenia soon, to examine the storage conditions of a large number of Greek Orthodox icons and other religious artefacts, kept there since 1974.
Speaking to CNA, Takis Hadjidemetriou, the Greek Cypriot Head of the Technical Committee, said the Committee could get involved in the restoration of damaged icons, if deemed necessary.
Earlier on Thursday, theTurkish Cypriot Mufti of Cyprus voiced support for the return of icons and religious artefacts to their rightful owners, namely the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus.
“The icons in Kyrenia Castle belong to the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and we will support their return to them,” he was quoted as saying in a press release issued by the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process
The issue was discussed today during the regular meeting of the Technical Committee and according to Hadjidemetriou, it was decided to pay a visit to the caste of Kyrenia for members of the Committee to be able to form their own opinion regarding the problem.
He added that consultations were ongoing to set the date.
As Hadjidemetriou said, the Committee intends to visit the castle soon “to see the state of the icons and understand the real problem.”
Asked about the possibility of involving the Technical Committee in the icons’ restoration, in case this is deemed necessary, the Greek Cypriot Head of the Committee said that “this is within our areas of competence.” He added that the Committee has restored many icons so far, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme “but first we have to see their condition and what the real problem is.”
Hadjidemetriou also said that the Technical Committee paid a visit to the castle’s storage areas many years ago and found the icons to be in good condition. With their next visit, members of the Technical Committee will be able to compare it with their current state, he added.
Asked about the possible return of icons to the Church of Cyprus, Hadjidemetriou said this was not part of the Technical Committee’s mandate but was connected to political developments in the Cyprus problem.
He said finally that the members of the Technical Committee have no difficulty in reaching a common understanding and approach over the matter.
The 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the subsequent occupation of the island, has heavily affected Cyprus’ cultural heritage.
According to the Department of Antiquities, 197 ancient monuments are registered in the occupied part of the island, based on the Cyprus Antiquities Law, while the registration process was left incomplete for hundreds of other monuments and archaeological sites due to the Turkish invasion.
Museums in occupied Cyprus have been looted, ecclesiastical icons, frescoes and mosaics have been removed from churches and in many cases have been traced in Europe’s illegal antiquities trade markets and in auctions around the world.
(Cyprus News Agency)