NEWS

Turkey is considering Halki move, reports say

Turkish authorities are reportedly considering reopening the Halki Orthodox Seminary, which is located on an island off the coast of Istanbul, following an appeal by US President Barack Obama for the school to start operating again, according to press reports in Turkey. Officially, Turkish authorities ruled out any move on the school. Asked whether Ankara would react to Obama’s appeal earlier this week, Minister of State Mustafa Said Yazicioglu said, «That is our business.» But reports in Turkish newspapers suggest that sources at the Foreign and Education ministries in Ankara have discussed the matter. There are also suggestions that Ankara might link the possible reopening of the seminary with a Greek move to grant rights to the Muslim minority in the northern Greek region of Thrace. According to the reports, the recognition by Greek authorities of muftis in Thrace and financial support for Muslim schools might prompt a Turkish rethink on the Halki school. In their official response to Obama’s appeal on the Halki Seminary, Turkish government officials reportedly claimed to have proposed several «scenarios» to Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios but to have had them all rejected. A meeting between the Istanbul-based patriarch and Obama at the US president’s hotel displeased many in Turkey, though Greeks were upset that Obama did not visit Vartholomaios at his base in Istanbul’s Phanar district. Diplomats in Athens remarked yesterday that the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join, has asked Ankara to reopen the seminary. They dismissed any connection between the school and the Muslim minority in Thrace.