Erdogan breaks ground for new Syriac church in Istanbul

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday laid the cornerstone for the first church to be built in Turkey since the founding of the modern republic in 1923.

The church in Istanbul will serve the city's 15,000-strong Syriac Christian community, which has been attempting to build a new place of worship for the past 10 years.

In a ceremony at the site in the Yesilkoy neighbourhood, Erdogan said he hoped the building would be completed within two years.

"It is the Turkish Republic's duty to meet the need for the Syriac community, who are the ancient children of this geography," he said.

Syriac representatives said the land, which is part of an Italian cemetery, was allocated by then-prime minister Erdogan a decade ago.

Sait Susin, the head of the Syriac Church Foundation based in Istanbul, said they have been using churches belonging to other communities to satisfy their needs.

"However, we have had problems because of the prayer times. We needed a church. Erdogan granted our request in 2009 to build the church on public property. That's why we are honoured to invite him for the groundbreaking ceremony," he said.