Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ, Αλέξανδρος Μπελτές
Greece categorically condemns Turkey’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia to a mosque, the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says.
This decision, taken 85 years after Hagia Sophia was declared a museum, is an affront to its ecumenical character. Furthermore, it is a decision that offends all those who recognize Hagia Sophia as an indispensable part of world cultural heritage.
This decision clearly affects not only Turkey’s relations with Greece but also its relations with the European Union, UNESCO, and the world community as a whole.
It is a truly regretful development that the Turkish leadership, after working for the Alliance of Civilizations in 2005, has now taken the decision to reverse course.
Greek Foreign and Culture Ministers slam decision to allow Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia to revert to a mosque
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias briefed fellow ministers in the European People’s Party (EPP) group on Friday of a Turkish court’s decision allowing the change of the iconic Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque.
In a tweet, the minister said that the court decision announced by the Turkish president is a provocation to the global cultural heritage and to UNESCO, which has recognized the monument as such.
Dendias was attending a teleconference of EPP meeting ahead of the EU’s Council of Foreign Ministers on Monday.
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni on Friday said that τηε Turkish court’s decision is “a blatant provocation to the entire civilized world, a world that recognizes the unique value and universality of this monument.”
Commenting on the court decision which was announced on Friday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the minister added that “the nationalism exhibited by President Erdogan is not his best adviser, and is driving his country back six centuries.”
She stressed that “just because a Turkish court succumbed, it does not mean that Hagia Sophia will lose its prestige and its universal message. President Erdogan has decided to culturally isolate Turkey.”
Ruling party New Democracy MEP Manolis Kefalogiannis posed an official question to the European Commission on Friday on the steps it intends to take after the Turkish president’s decision to sign off on the conversion of Hagia Sophia to a mosque.
The Eurodeputy stressed that “Hagia Sophia is not just a World Heritage Site, it is a global symbol of Orthodoxy,” and opening it to Muslim worship “is an extreme provocation against world cultural heritage and in remarkable contempt for the religious sentiment of the Christian world,” he added.
The parliamentarian also expressed his concern on the impact of UNESCO’s response to Turkey’s unilateral decision, as the organization’s Director-General Audrey Azoulay late on Friday released a statement in which she aired her deep regret for the Turkish authorities’ decision, made, she said, “without prior discussion, and which calls for the universal value of World Heritage to be preserved.”
Furthermore, said Azoulay, world states have an obligation to ensure that any modifications do not affect the Outstanding Universal Value of inscribed sites on their territories, therefore UNESCO, she pointed up, should have been given prior notice of any such modifications, that in turn would have been examined by the World Heritage Committee.