A 16th-century Ottoman mosque in Bosnia which was damaged during the country’s 1992-1995 war was re-opened for prayers Friday.
The Emperor’s Mosque in Foca, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south-east of the capital Sarajevo, was restored with help from the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), which also opened new offices in Bosnia on Friday.
First erected in 1501 by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II, the place of worship was destroyed by Serb forces in 1992. It was one of 12 mosques damaged or destroyed during the brutal conflict.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak attended Friday’s opening ceremony as part of an official visit to Bosnia.
Recalling that the Ottoman Empire had been present in the region for about 500 years, Kaynak said it had ruled with justice and without interfering in the religious life, culture, traditions or customs of non-Muslims.
Recalling former Bosnian leader Alija Izetbegovic, who led the country through the breakup of Yugoslavia, Kaynak said: "I want to say that I'm glad I'm with you here today. Dear Bosnians, dear people of Foca, I want to say that the world we are living in today needs more people like Alija Izetbegovic.''
“Alija Izetbegovic was not just your president, he was our hero," Kaynak added.
Earlier, Kaynak attended the opening ceremony of TIKA's new service building in Sarajevo. During the opening, TIKA Sarajevo Coordinator Omer Faruk Alimci briefed the minister about TIKA's projects and activities in Bosnia.
TIKA has been carrying out extensive restoration work on Ottoman heritage in the Balkans as well as implementing development and aid projects.
The agency was established right after the Bosnian War and has completed more than 800 projects so far.
Restoration of the Sokullu Mehmet Pasa and Konjic bridges as well as the Kursunlu Mosque and Foca Hunkar Mosque in Maglaj, Bosnia are the agency’s latest projects.