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Turkey Has No Lessons in Tolerance - FM

cyprus-turkey rowTurkey is the "last country and the Turkish government is the last government that can give lessons of tolerance to Cyprus," said Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, responding to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip who accused the Greek Cypriots of racism.

Erdogan was referring to sports team APOEL, whose fans recently attacked a Turkish basketball team in Nicosia.

But, pointing to the interruption of a Greek Orthodox Christmas Day mass in the Turkish-held Rizokarpaso region in north Cyprus, Kyprianou said that the 'brutal interruption' showed the level of Turkey's respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The respect for and compliance with human rights, among others the right to freely exercise religious beliefs, is also an obligation for Turkey in its EU accession course, he said.

Rather than focusing on the attacks on its basketball team, Turkey should "demonstrate how tolerant she is to other religions and diversity," said Kyprianou.

He defended the Cyprus Republic's handling of the basketball game in which Turkish players were targeted by hooligans, saying that authorities responded quickly and efficiently to protect the team.

On December 21st, around 500 APOEL fans mobbed a locker room where Turkish Pinar Karşıyaka players were sheltering after a FIBA game between the two teams at the Tassos Papadopoulos stadium in Nicosia.

Three 15-year-old boys who were arrested in connection with the violence have since been released, and police are continuing their investigations into the events. Hooliganism has become more and more prevalent in recent years, with violent incidents following many games, particularly in football. Police say that many of the attacks are carefully planned ahead of time and coordinated by ringleaders who take molotov cocktails and stones in the trunks of their cars to the games.

FIBA fined the team 40,000 euros and the incident was slammed by Turkish-Cypriot spokesman Hüseyin Özgürgün who released a statement calling the hooliganism 'racist' and indicative of 'Greek-Cypriot fanaticism', and urging FIBA to take action. Turkish-Cypriot teacher trade union KTOS also condemned the hooliganism, saying it was 'shameful for all Cypriots.'

President Demetris Christofias condemned the violence as the behaviour of 'mindless hooligans'.

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