Another ancient Armenian church is being restored in Turkey, to be converted to a museum, as the Turkish Mayor of of Kars – a historic Armenian city – says he wish he could do more.

Image: Relief carvings from the Kars Church via VirtualAni

The front page article of Azg Daily‘s November 21, 2007 issue (in Armenian) is an interview with Kars Mayor Naif Alibeyoglu who reveals that the ongoing restoration of Surp Arakelots (St. Apostles) Armenian church, the building will be converted to a museum and not to a mosque.  This comes as a surprise because “[i]n 1999 work began to convert [the church] into a mosque.”

Image: The cathedral in Kars at the end of the 19th century with the destroyed belltower via VirtualAni

The mayor says that his attempts to build a monument to Armenian-Turkish friendship in Kars have failed and that there are no Armenians participating in the
restoration of the Kars Church.

Image: The Mayor of Kars via

After the reporter asked the mayor whether he was aware that the house of famous poet Yeghishe Charentsin his native Kars is almost in ruins and a sign says it is for sale, the mayor replied that he didn’t know that Kars had a famous Armenian poet and would now try to find out more about it.

Although Mayor Alibeyoglu may have a true commitment to restoring peace between Armenia and Turkey, he certainly doesn’t represent the views of everyone who live in his city.  As we revealed in April of 2007, a member of Azerbaijan’s “Sicilian mafia” (the Azeri journalist who gave this name was killed in 2005) is in Kars working hard to keep the Turkish-Armenian border closed. The Economist did similar reporting a month later confirming that “Hasan Sultanoglu Zeynalov, Azerbaijan’s consul-general in Kars, eastern Turkey… openly complains about Naif Alibeyoglu, the mayor, who is promoting dialogue between Turkey, Azerbaijan and their common enemy, Armenia, just over the border.”