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Kerry urges Turkey to re-open Orthodox clergy schools

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, on April 21, 2013, in Istanbul
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I , the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, on April 21, 2013, in Istanbul. Kerry urged Turkey on Sunday to re-open Orthodox clergy schools near Istanbul tha

US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Turkey on Sunday to re-open Orthodox clergy schools near Istanbul that authorities have kept closed for more than 40 years.

"It is our hope that the Halki seminary will open," Kerry said during a press conference in Istanbul after two days of talks on the Syrian crisis and the Mideast peace process.

Kerry said he discussed religious freedom in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey and the possible re-opening of the theological schools in talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

The Halki seminary, where Orthodox clergy used to train, is located on an island off Istanbul and was closed in 1971, after Turkey fell out with Greece over Cyprus.

Kerry also met on Sunday the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, whom Turkey considers the spiritual leader only of Turkey's tiny Greek Orthodox minority.

Both the United States and the European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, have increased pressure on Ankara to re-open the seminary as well as introducing further rights for religious minorities in the new constitution it is currently drafting.

Ankara says it is also in favour of such a move but cites procedural issues for the delay in implementing it.

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