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Lraper: Armenian Patriarch Visits Turkish Prime Minister

ISTANBUL, 12 January 2002 (“Lraper” Church Bulletin)–
His Beatitude Mesrob II, Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul and All Turkey, met with His Excellency Mr Bulent Ecevit, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, in Ankara on 11 January 2002. A small entourage accompanied the Patriarch.

The main subject of the cordial meeting was the amendment proposed by the State Ministry for Foundations, which seeks to revise the Foundations Law No. 227. The proposed law directly concerns the Turkish Armenian community and other non-Muslim communities in Turkey.

Patriarch Mesrob first thanked the Prime Minister and his Government for their attempts to update the law for the betterment of the situation of non-Muslim foundations (vakifs). He then submitted to the Prime Minister a legal analysis prepared by the lawyers of the Armenian community and an official letter of petition signed by him. The petition includes proposals for amendments that would be welcomed by the Armenian foundations in Turkey.

The Patriarch said: “As the Government updates the law, there is only one thing that the non-Muslim religious minorities wish. The non-Muslim foundations that have survived the Ottoman Empire should be allowed to have the legal right to receive, own and manage new immovable properties, in order for them to realize their humanitarian, social, religious, educational, health and cultural endeavours.” The Patriarch added that if this much can be achieved, then the discrimination between the Muslim and
non-Muslim foundations in the Republic of Turkey would be relegated to history books.

“Just as any Turkish citizen, regardless of religion, has the right to own property, the foundations established by any group of Turkish citizens which are legal personalities should enjoy the same prerogative,” explained the Patriarch, and underlined, “Again regardless of their religion and without any artificial conditions.” Patriarch Mesrob voiced his hope that the amended law would not achieve anything less than this equality.

His Excellency the Prime Minister thanked the Armenian Patriarch and his delegation for the visit. He said the amendment at issue is still under discussion and, at this point, it was good that the religious minorities offered their views, which would surely be taken into consideration.

The Patriarch and the Prime Minister also discussed and re-evaluated the status of a list of administrative and legal problems faced by the minorities that were submitted to the Government by previous Patriarchal delegations. Patriarch Mesrob expressed his community’s appreciation for the problems, which were resolved so far, but reiterated that there are still pending issues. He asked the Prime Minister and his Government to continue to show willingness and sensitivity to overcome these matters. Mr. Ecevit promised that they would do their utmost to assist the community
within existing possibilities. He asked the Patriarch to continue to convey to the Government any issues that the community would like to see resolved.

Prime Minister Ecevit expressed his best wishes to the Armenian Patriarch and his community on the occasion of the New Year and Christmas, which Armenians celebrate for eight days between 5th and 13th January. The Patriarch wished the Prime Minister success and bon voyage for his upcoming trip to the United States, and said he would pray for his safe return to the country.

Also present at the meeting were Mr Ahmet Shaghar (Prime Minister’s Undersecretary), the Revd Fr Drtad Uzunyan (Patriarchal Aide), Mr Dikran Zenginyan (Administrative Assistant to the Patriarch), Attorney Mrs Luiz Bakar (Patriarchate’s Press Spokesperson) and Mr Karabet Soekeli (representative of the Armenian Community in Ankara).

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