Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul on Monday as Ankara stepped up its campaign to address issues relating to the treatment of religious minorities.
According to The Associated Press, Arinc was the highest-ranking member of the Turkish government to visit the Christian Orthodox Patriarchate in more than 50 years.
?Today is a very happy day for us,? said Patriarch Vartholomaios, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians. ?It has strengthened our hopes.?
Ankara has promised to consider reopening the Patriarchate?s Halki Seminary on the island of Heybeliada and recently returned control of the 19th-century orphanage on Buyukada, another island in the Sea of Marmara off Istanbul.
?It is our duty to meet the just demands of our citizens who have lived in this country for centuries,? said Arinc. ?We will try to meet them from a legal point of view.?