Turkey reaches out to Armenians


In a show of goodwill towards the Armenian people, the Turkish government has decided to take two significant steps to improve relations: allowing a religious service to be held at the Akhtamar Church in the eastern province of Van, and looking into providing educational opportunities to the children of illegal Armenian workers. In Van, the governor's office announced yesterday that Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay had approved an application submitted by the Van Governor's Office to permit a sermon to be held once a year at the Akhtamar Church, which reopened as a museum in 2007 following restoration done at the behest of the government. At the time, the Armenian community pressed for the 1,100-year-old church on Lake Van's Akhtamar Island to be made available for religious services. Under the new decision, the church will be opened for religious services one day per year in the second half of September, to be attended by a limited number of visitors and at a time which will not complicate the movement of visitors to the museum. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc yesterday also told news channel NTV that the government has been attempting to create a formula which will allow the children of illegal Armenian workers to attend non-Muslim minority schools. "The Education Ministry is continuing its work on the requirements for enrolment in minority schools," he said. "Turkey has always opened its arms to those who come to this country," he added.