UN expert wants access to Cyprus’ religious sites


NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A U.N. expert says more needs to be done to allow worshippers free and unfettered access to religious sites on the ethnically divided island of Cyprus.

Heiner Bielefeldt, U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, said Thursday the situation has improved some after crossings linking the island’s Turkish-speaking north and its Greek-speaking south opened nine years ago.

This has allowed Muslim Turkish Cypriots to visit holy sites in the south, and Orthodox Christian Greek Cypriots to do so in the north.

But Bielefeldt said restrictions are still in place, especially where religious sites are situated in military-controlled areas in northern Cyprus.

The Mediterranean island was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.