A special ceremony took place on Monday evening to mark the completion of EU-funded restoration works at the Martinengo Bastion and part of the Venetian Walls in Turkish occupied Famagusta.
The Greek Cypriot and Turkish co-chairmen of the bicommunal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, Takis Hadjidemetriou and Ali Tuncay respectively, said the work was the result of cooperation, which should be enhanced to the benefit of both communities.
Speaking at the event, Hadjidemetriou said the monuments which have been restored are considered to be some of the most important fortifications in the world from the Renaissance.
He said the Famagusta Walls have been on the agenda of the Technical Committee since it was first set up, noting that works began on the Othello Tower, which desperately needed repair.
Hadjidemetriou said the evident neglect spurred them to embrace the whole of cultural heritage, Greek, Roman, Phoenician, Frankish, Venetian, Ottoman, and later British monuments.
All this constitutes the cultural wealth of Cyprus, it is the common cultural foundation of all Cypriots, it is their common history, Hadjidemetriou said, adding that multicultural Cyprus was the most important crossroads in the world.
Hadjidemetriou noted that the Technical Committee decided that to salvage this common wealth, the two Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides had to reconcile and create a new relationship, one of trust and cooperation towards a common goal.
He furthermore said that this experience led to the conclusion that what seems impossible with a bit of effort can become a reality.
Speaking at the event, Tuncay said the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage has proven that only cooperation can produce results, adding that work was carried out based on equality and mutual respect and trust.
He expressed hope that the cooperation which has been established will expand and embrace other sectors as well, to the benefit of both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.
Tuncay pointed out that it was time for Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots to reconcile with the historical monuments of the area, noting that all Muslim and Christian sites of worship on the island, as well as the monuments of the Byzantine, Lusignan, Venetian, Ottoman and other civilisations, must be considered common wealth and heritage.
He called on the Turkish Cypriots to create a new mechanism for the sustainable restoration of sites, such as Famagusta, where there is a plethora of cultural heritage monuments.
Tuncay warned that the monuments that have been restored under the auspices of the Technical Committee could rapidly deteriorate without care.
The Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage’s support to Famagusta started in 2014 with the conservation of the Othello Tower/Citadel and continues today with conservation works to the Martinengo Bastion, Ravelin/Land Gate, and the city-side portion of the Walls between Arsenal and Sea Gate.
These are three of seven new projects that, thanks to European Union funding and UNDP support, the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage is currently carrying out in Famagusta Walled City.
The other ongoing projects are conservation works to St. Mary Church of Armenians, St Mary Church of Carmel (Carmelite). Conservation works will also start soon at St. Anne Church, and the Mescit of Tabakhane/Tanner’s Mosque (Jacobite Church).
New design projects for Canbulat and Seagate have also been announced.
Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. Efforts to reunite the country under a federal roof have so far failed to yield results.