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Turkish Court Blocks Demolition Of Armenia 'Friendship' Statue

The unfinished statue of "Peace and Brotherhood" in Kars
YEREVAN -- A Turkish court has reportedly blocked a controversial government plan to demolish a monument meant to promote reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia.

The 30-meter unfinished statue in the northeastern Turkish city of Kars, 50 kilometers from the Armenian border, depicts two figures emerging from one human shape and symbolizes 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 remove it and create a park on the site.

That action, approved by the Kars city council in February, prompted strong criticism from opponents of Erdogan's government.

Meantime, the Anatolia news agency reported that a court in the nearby city of Erzurum issued a temporary order on March 7 blocking the demolition of the monument. It quoted a lawyer for the statue's sculptor, Mehmet Aksoy, as saying the order would stop "irreparable damage" being done to his work while the courts decide on its fate.

Aksoy has repeatedly condemned the planned demolition, saying it recalls the 2001 destruction by the Taliban of ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley.

Armenia has criticized Erdogan's order. Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said destroying the statue could complicate the normalization of relations between the two countries.