A sixth-century mosaic of Saint Mark, stolen from a church after Turkey's military invaded Cyprus in 1974, was recently recovered in a Monaco apartment and returned to Cypriot officials. The ancient masterpiece was described by Arthur Brand, the Dutch investigator who located it, as "one of the last and most beautiful examples of art from the early Byzantine era."
Many other cultural Cypriot relics, from churches and other sites, were stolen from Cyprus by Turkish invaders and smuggled abroad. Some were recovered and returned in the past. In 1989, mosaics stolen from the Church of Panagia Kanakaria, discovered in the United States, were returned to Cyprus.
In the summer of 1974, Turkey mounted two major military campaigns against Cyprus and occupied the northern part of the island (which Turkey now calls the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," recognized only by Turkey). Since the Turkish invasion, much information has emerged not only about the atrocities committed against the Cypriots, but also of the destruction of historic, cultural and religious monuments.
In 2016, a report by the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that:
"More than 550 Greek Orthodox churches, chapels and monasteries located in towns and villages of the occupied areas, have been pillaged, deliberately vandalized and, in some cases, demolished. Many Christian places of worship have been converted into mosques, depots of the Turkish army, stockyards and hay barns. This fact clearly proves that the religious heritage in the occupied areas has been the target of the occupation regime as part of its policy to eradicate the cultural character of the area. Moreover, important cultural monuments and places of worship continue to be completely inaccessible because they are located within the 'military zones' of the Turkish occupation army...
Meanwhile, Turkey -- which has been committing the intentional destruction of occupied Cyprus's cultural heritage for more than four decades -- remains a member of NATO and a candidate for membership in the European Union. This is a situation that the West must force Turkey to address -- and not only when an individual piece of looted art, such as the mosaic of Saint Mark, happens to be rescued.