Turkish President Erdogan today rejected criticism of his alleged intention to convert the former Basilica of Hagia Sophia into a mosque in Constantinople, despite concerns expressed in Turkey and abroad.
“The allegations against our country regarding Hagia Sophia are equal to a direct attack on our sovereignty,” said Erdogan.
Yesterday the Supreme Court of Turkey ruled that Kemal Ataturk’s 1934 decree on the status of Hagia Sophia as a museum was and is legal, but noted that the current Turkish head of state had the right to decide whether to change it or not.
The Supreme Court ruled that it was a legitimate decision to protect the museum status of Hagia Sophia, but noted that a presidential decree was enough to change it.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Ankara not to change the status of Hagia Sophia, which is now a museum.
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, answering a relevant question from the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, said Moscow was waiting for a balanced decision that would take into account UNESCO guidelines.
“We consider the temple extremely important for all mankind in terms of culture and history. Hagia Sophia is included in UNESCO World Heritage Sites and we believe that any request related to the change of this status should take this fact into account and all requirements related to it, such as preservation and accessibility, will be strictly observed,” Zakharova added.
Vice-President for Protecting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, during a discussion and regarding the European Union’s relations with Turkey, said that the broader framework of Euro-Turkish relations is in flux and not in the responsibility of Europe.
“The limits of this flux need to be clarified and tomorrow’s directions need to be very clear: How are we going to live together, how can we manage issues such as immigration and counterterrorism, how are we going to cohabit in the peripheral region that reaches the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, North Africa, what opportunities will Turkey have in the long run to maintain a pre-accession perspective and how compatible that perspective will be with actions such as illegal drilling and Hagia Sophia.”