Turkey's EU Ministry return land to Mor Gabriel Monastery

ANKARA - Turkey`s Ministry of EU Affairs has welcomed the return of a piece of land to the historic Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation, in Turkey’s southeast region.

The Ministry called it an "important achievement towards strengthening the fabric of fraternity and realizing the goal of advanced democracy in our country".

The issue over the ownership of the nearly 250-decare (1000 square meters) of land in Mardin province has been a source of dispute over the last decade between Turkey’s government and the Assyrian foundation. Two years ago, the Turkish Supreme Court upheld a decision giving the rights of the land to the state.

But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in September last year that the land would be returned to the foundation - its historic owner - as part of the government`s "democratization package". The move was approved a week later by the state agency for foundations.

The discussion came up again this week in the Turkish Parliament, where MPs began debating the implementation of the package.

Turkey has in the past faced criticism from the European Union member states over its handling of the issue.

The EU Ministry said it was delighted that Turkish citizens of Assyrian origin welcomed the deal.

The statement added that the Ministry does not regard the move as a favor, but a deserved right, saying that it was an indication of the government`s sensitivity towards human and minority rights reforms.

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