Attacks on Muslim houses of worship on Cyprus will “not go unanswered”, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said following an arson incident at a mosque.
“Unfortunately there was an [attempt] against our mosques in southern Cyprus. Of course, this operation in southern Cyprus will not go unanswered,” Erdogan told reporters on Monday before departing for Qatar on a two-day visit.
Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper reported at least one suspect was detained following a December 2 attempt to burn the Grand Mosque in the city of Larnaca. No one was hurt in the incident.
“This is what we are telling southern Cyprus: do not carry out such acts of sabotage against our houses of worship. The price you will have to pay for such acts of sabotage will be heavy,” Erdogan said.
Cyprus split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of a union with Greece. Turkey is the only nation to recognise a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island and does not recognise Cyprus as a state.
Turkey’s foreign ministry on Sunday said the incident “does not only target Muslims, but also threatens the common values of humanity, and reveals how certain circles are far from the understanding of peaceful coexistence”.
Ersin Tatar, leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot republic also denounced the attack and called on the Greek Cypriot administration to prevent any future attempts.
A Cypriot law enforcement official said authorities arrested a 27-year-old Syrian man in connection with the attack, which caused some damage to the mosque’s wooden door before fire crews put it out. He faces a charge of attempted arson.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the case publicly, said the suspect’s motives are believed to stem from having his request to stay overnight at the mosque rejected by the imam.
A witness told police the suspect used Greek-language newspapers as kindling to light the fire.