ERZERUM (RFE/RL)—A Turkish court has temporarily blocked controversial government plans to demolish a giant monument meant to promote reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, it was reported on Tuesday.
The 100-foot unfinished concrete statue located in the northeastern Turkish city of Kars, just 50 kilometers from the Armenian border, depicts two figures emerging from one human shape and symbolizing the pain of division.
Visiting Kars in January, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the monument as a “monstrosity” that overshadows a nearby Islamic shrine. He ordered the Kars mayor, a member of his ruling Justice and Development Party, to replace it with a park.
The move, which was approved by the municipal council last month, prompted strong criticism from some opponents of Erdogan’s government.
In a report cited by Agence France Presse, the Anatolia news agency said the court in the nearby city of Erzurum issued a temporary order Monday blocking the demolition. It quoted a lawyer for the statue’s sculptor Mehmet Aksoy as saying that the order will stop “irreparable damage” being done to his work while the courts decide on its ultimate fate.
Aksoy has repeatedly condemned the planned demolition, saying that it would recall the 2001 destruction by the Taliban of ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan valley that stunned the world.
Armenia also criticized Erdogan’s order in January, with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian saying that its execution could further complicate the normalization of relations between the two estranged nations.