UN pulls plug on Cypriot abbey plan

NICOSIA (AFP) – A UN agency has pulled the plug on a controversial plan to restore a revered Greek Orthodox monastery in Turkish-held northern Cyprus, Greek-Cypriot government officials said yesterday. Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) withdrew its offer of around $1 million to prop up the crumbling Apostolos Andreas Monastery. «Unfortunately, the necessary approval was not given and thus there won’t be any funds for restoring the monastery,» Chrysostomides told reporters. At the heart of the controversy were plans to tear down guest cells built atop the 19th century church that experts said threatened the integrity of the structure and could lead to its collapse. Opponents said removing the cells would be an affront to the sanctity of the monastery as it would forever alter the structure’s image in the minds of generations of Greek Orthodox faithful. Chrysostomides said the government failed to convince the monastery’s dissenting administrative committee, which has the final say on any structural changes, to approve to the restoration work. Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Polakis Sarris told AFP the monastery would not be left to crumble and that Foreign Minister George Iacovou would look into alternative ways of saving the structure. Sarris said earlier that UNOPS had backed down in the face of relentless grassroots opposition to the restoration project. Located on the northeastern tip of the Turkish-held Karpass Peninsula, the monastery has been a spiritual beacon for Greek Cypriots prevented from traveling there for nearly three decades. The monastery is said to be built on the spot where St Andrew came ashore in search of water in the first century AD.