Talks between religious leaders in divided Cyprus called off

Nicosia, Cyprus - Muslim and Orthodox Christian leaders in war-divided Cyprus have canceled a historic meeting, with the top Turkish Cypriot cleric citing offensive remarks by his Greek Cypriot counterpart.

Muslim cleric Ahmet Yonluer and Archbishop Chrysostomos II, had been due to meet Monday and visit the Hala Sultan Tekke, the island's most important Muslim shrine, in the southern city of Larnaca.

But Yonluer said he called the meeting off because of remarks by Chrysostomos that were "detrimental to peace and dialogue between religions," Turkey's Anatolia news agency said.

He accused the archbishop of acting more like a "radical" politician than a man of religion.

Cyprus has been divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion in the wake of a short-lived coup backed by supporters of union with Greece.

Ahead of Monday's planned talks Chrysostomos said Greek Cypriots have no differences with Turkish Cypriots, only with settlers from the Turkish mainland and with the Turkish army. He also said he would raise the issue of looted Greek Cypriot churches in the north of the island.

"He says 'the occupying forces should leave, the (Turkish) settlers should leave' like a marginal politician, like a politician with radical views," Yonluer said. "That's not the duty of a cleric. Our duty is to convey religious dialogue and tolerance to the public, as demanded by God."

The two clerics had also been scheduled to meet again in the north of the island on Jan. 22 and visit the church of St. Barnabas, in Famagusta. Barnabas is regarded as the founder of the Christian Orthodox Church of Cyprus.

Cyprus Church official Frixos Kleanthous said that meeting also would not take place.