Mustafa Şentop, Speaker of the GNAT visited the town of Vrapciste located in the northwestern part of the country and the city of Ohrid which is in the southwest in the context of his visit to North Macedonia. 29.06.2019

Şentop attended the presentation ceremony of a construction equipment donated to the Municipality of Vrapciste and a garbage truck donated to the Municipality of Mavrova Rostuse by Turkish Union of Municipalities (TBB) and chatted with the public in Vrapciste.

In his speech at the ceremony, Şentop reminded that he is originally from Gevgelija, North Macedonia and told that the region is full of bitter memories.

Şentop reminded that the region had to spend nearly a period of 50 years since 1876 full of suffering and stated that over 5 million people died on these lands either due to war or during migrating.

Şentop indicated that Turkey has ties of affection with the Balkans stating, “Our brothers who live here and their memories will always live in our minds and hearts.”

Şentop stated that people with different ethnic origins and beliefs had lived together in this region for over 400 years and that they had presented a good example by living together peacefully, which is what the world needs the most today, in these lands under the roof of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years.

Şentop indicated that ruining peace and comfort in the Balkans means ruining peace in Europe and the whole world and continued his words:

“In this respect, everyone should look at here carefully and try not to see their own countries’ political games and calculations in the Balkans. Peace, welfare and coexistence culture here is not just important for the Balkans but also for the whole world. We always pay attention to that. Turkey is trying to help all the people living here with all of its resources, of course particularly to our brothers and cognates regardless of their country, religion or ethnic origin.”

Tülin Erkal Kara, Ambassador of Turkish Republic to Skopje thanked TBB for their attentive approach to North Macedonian cognates’ needs and stated, “This contribution established in local level has brought two friendly countries’ people closer and contributed to the development of strong ties established in national level. We will be pleased to see our brother municipalities strengthening their cooperation in the upcoming period.”

Zeynel Abidin Beyazgül, Deputy Chairman of Turkish Union of Municipalities and Metropolitan Municipality Mayor of Şanlıurfa Province stated that there are symbolic borders on maps, however there are no boundaries in our hearts.

Beyazgül indicated that Şanlıurfa is a city which was a cradle to many historical and cultural centers and civilizations with its Balıklı Lake and Göbekli Hill, “There is Şanlıurfa on one side and North Macedonia on the other, however we share our happinesses and our hearts beat as one.”

İsen Şabani, Mayor of Vrapciste emphasized that the Municipality of Vrapciste is a multinational and multicultural municipality and thanked Turkish institutions and organizations for their donations.

Medat Kurtovski, Mayor of Mavrova-Rostuse thanked TBB for donating a garbage truck and expressed Turkish institutions’ support to Mavrova-Rostuse Municipality.

On the other hand, Speaker Şentop and the accompanying delegation visited the city of Ohrid which is located in the southwestern part of the country after completing their program in Vrapciste.

Şentop visited Zeynel Abidin Mosque and Lodge and the Ohrid bazaar. Şentop attracted intensive attention of local and Turkish citizens, he chatted with them and took some pictures.

Afterwards, Şentop and the accompanying delegation paid a visit to historical Ali Paşa Mosque which was renovated by Turkish General Directorate for Foundations in cooperation with the Muftiate of Ohrid, Directorate of Cultural and Natural Heritage of Ohrid and Museum of Ohrid.

Şentop toured the Mosque and received information from the authorities.

Renovation of historical Ali Paşa Mosque which is located in Ohrid, a city in the southwestern part of the country began in May 2017 with the cooperation of Turkish General Directorate for Foundations, Ohrid Muftiate, Directorate of Cultural and Natural Heritage of Ohrid and Ohrid Museum. Renovation work was stopped when Macedonians began protesting because they thought the minarets were going to be build taller than the original.

Robert Alagyozovski, the then Minister of Culture of Macedonia made a statement after meeting with the directors of cultural institutions in Ohrid in December 2017 and told that the renovation of the 5 century old mosque was stopped due to reactions of associations in Ohrid. The process was brought to the attention of UNESCO with the request of the working group set up by the Ministry of Culture.

The problematical renovation process continued through different phases.

The minaret of the mosque which was built in the 16th century from fired brick and stones was demolished between 1912-1918 and was never rebuilt.