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Turk nationalists anger Armenians over prayer service

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Turk nationalists anger Armenians over prayer service

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Turkey’s government has hailed what it calls growing religious tolerance in the country after allowing a Muslim prayer service to be held at a disused Armenian church.

It comes after an Armenian church service was conducted in eastern Turkey in September.

But Armenia’s leading political groups and the Armenian Apostolic Church dismissed Friday’s prayers as a publicity stunt and criticised the authorities for failing to restore a cross on the church’s dome in time for the ceremony.

Muslim Turkey and Christian Armenia are bitterly divided over their troubled history and the border between them remains closed despite US-brokered peace accords signed last year.

Some commentators said Friday’s prayers were a gesture to stress the Turkish identity of the region after September’s Armenian Orthodox service, in a disused church on an island in Lake Van.