ANKARA — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that attacks on Muslim houses of worship on Cyprus would “not go unanswered” following reports of an attempted arson attack on a mosque on the southern, internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot part of the divided Mediterranean island.
Turkey’s pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper said at least one suspect was detained following a Dec. 2 attempt to burn the Grand Mosque in the city of Larnaca. No one was hurt in the incident.
“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 before departing for Qatar on a two-day visit.
“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,” he said.
Cyprus split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkey is the only nation to recognize a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island and does not recognize Cyprus as a state.
A Cypriot law enforcement official said authorities arrested a 27-year-old Syrian man in connection with the attack that 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 wasn’t authorized 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.