TURKISH PARLIAMENT ADOPTS LAW TO RETURN PROPERTIES TO CHRISTIAN AND JEWISH MINORITY FOUNDATIONS

PanARMENIAN.Net
21.02.2008 15:08 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Turkey's parliament approved a law Wednesday to
return properties confiscated by the state to Christian and Jewish
minority foundations - a key reform demanded by the European Union,
the AP reports.

The EU has long been pressing Turkey to pass the measure that would
allow the foundations belonging to minority groups to reclaim seized
assets - including churches, school buildings and orphanages - that
were registered in the names of saints.

Turkey is far from European Union accession, said European Commission
Vice President Franco Frattini, in a statement to Italian daily Il
Giornale di Vicenza yesterday. Turkey has many deficiencies in terms
of freedom of speech, women's rights and prison standards, he said,
adding that the EU cannot talk about Turkish membership before these
obstacles are overcome.

The parliament passed the measure 242-72. President Abdullah Gul,
a close associate of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is expected
to sign the measure.

Turkey seized some properties owned by minority foundations in 1974
around the time of an invasion of Cyprus that followed a coup attempt
by supporters of union with Greece.

The country's population of 70 million, mostly Muslim, includes 65,000
Armenian Orthodox Christians, 23,000 Jews and fewer than 2,500 Greek
Orthodox Christians.

Parliament first approved the measure in November 2006. But the
president at the time, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, was a secularist who
was often at odds with Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government, and he
vetoed it.