His Holiness The Patriarch meets with the Prime Minister of Turkey

Ankara 30th, March 2011: His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, The Patriarch of Antioch and all the East held a meeting with Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey. His Holiness was accompanied by Mor Gregorius Yohanna Ibrahim Metropolitan of Aleppo, Mor Timotheos Samuel Aktas Archbishop of Tur-Abdin , Mor Philoxenos Yusuf Cetin Archbishop of Istanbul and Mor Philoxenus Mattias Nayis Patriarchal Assistant. The presidents of the diocesan councils of Tur-Abdin and Istanbul, as well as the legal team of Mor Gabriel Monastery were also included in the Patriarchal delegation. The meeting which lasted over one hour took place at the Prime Minister’s official Residence in Ankara. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Mor Gabriel Monastery Land Dispute. Also present at the meeting were the Turkish Secretary for the Environment, whose office is responsible for Turkish Forestry, which is in litigation with the Monastery, senior members of the Turkish civil servants representing different ministries involved in this case and members of the diplomatic corps.

During the meeting His Holiness highlighted the ancient history of the Syrian Orthodox people in Turkey and the role of the Monastery in the life of our people who are still in the area, as well as, its importance to the Syriac people throughout the world. His Holiness stressed that justice must take its course in the restoration of the rights of the Church in Turkey affirming to the Prime Minister that the Church will not forsake its rights in its sacred places at any cost. Mr. Erdoğan highlighted his appreciation for the role and participation of the Syriac Orthodox in economic and cultural life in Turkey. Mr. Erdoğan told the Patriarch and his delegation that he will be following the case and will do his utmost to find a proper outcome to settle this dispute after the issuance of the court’s verdict. It was agreed that the Patriarch and Prime Minster Erdoğan will meet again soon after the court verdict, to follow up with the disputed lands of St Gabriel’s Monastery. The meeting was widely covered by the Turkish media.