Patriarch ‘not bilateral issue’

Matters relating to Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios do not fall within the category of Greek-Turkish ties but touch on issues of religious rights that have attracted concern worldwide, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. «The issue is not bilateral – there have been expressions of interest from the European Union and the USA,» ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said. He was responding to a Turkish court ruling that disputes the ecumenical nature of the Patriarchate. Koumoutsakos drew attention to a statement by US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey, describing Vartholomaios as «a spiritual leader of global stature.» He also referred to an initiative by the US House of Representatives’ foreign affairs’ council to send a letter to Turkish authorities asking them to respect the rights of the Patriarchate. «It is clear that the status and operation of (the Patriarchate) is of interest to nations and organizations beyond Greece,» Koumoutsakos added.

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