LAST UPDATE 18:02
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Hagia Sophia would open for Muslim worship, after the Council of State annulled its status as a museum.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already signed the decree which opens the way to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque for Muslim worship.
“It has been decided that Hagia Sophia will be placed under the supervision of the Diyanet (Directorate of Religious Affairs) and will reopen for prayer,” the Turkish President posted on Twitter.
Turkish President is scheduled to deliver a speech later today (20:53 local time), following the decision by the Turkish Council of State.
Hayırlı olsun. pic.twitter.com/MzP6nzn9Jc
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) July 10, 2020
Before that, the Turkish Council of State annulled the 1934 decision by which the Turkish government then in office turned Hagia Sophia in Constantinople into a museum.
The Turkish Council of State, the Supreme Administrative Court of Turkey, announced today that it had annulled the 1934 government decree that turned the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople into a mosque.
It decided that it was illegal and, therefore, it paved the way for the conversion of the monument into a mosque, despite international warnings against such an action.
The Council of State accepted a request submitted by associations and annulled the 1934 government decision, Anadolu Agency, the state-run Turkish news agency, reported.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque, which has a museum status and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
UNESCO: Hagia Sophia is a World Heritage Site, Turkey has commitments
UNESCO said that it must be notified of any change in the Hagia Sophia museum, which is likely to be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee.
UNESCO told Reuters that Hagia Sophia had been inscribed on the World Heritage List as a museum, indicating that the state where it was located had specific commitments and legal obligations.
“Thus, a state must make sure that no modification undermines the outstanding universal value of a site listed on its territory,” the UN agency explained.
“Any modification must be notified by the state to UNESCO in advance, and be reviewed, if necessary, by the World Heritage Committee,” it added.
UNESCO also stressed that it had expressed its concerns to Turkish authorities in letters and that it had reiterated the message to Turkey’s ambassador to the institution on Thursday.
Vice President of Commission: Change of status of Hagia Sophia will undermine tolerance in Turkey
Vice President of the Commission and Commissioner for the Promotion of the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schoinas, highlighted the importance of Hagia Sophia as a symbol of interfaith and intercultural dialogue.
He also pointed out that the preservation of its current status, which is recognised at an international and public level, was of major importance otherwise tolerance in Turkey, as well as the opening up of the neighbouring country, would be undermined.
— Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή 🇪🇺 (@EEAthina) July 10, 2020
Speaking at the European Parliament’s plenary session on Europe’s cultural recovery, Margaritis Schoinas said: “Hagia Sophia is a symbol of interfaith and intercultural dialogue.”
“It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a museum, it is a symbol. It is also a symbol of a city, which itself symbolises the values that we would like to prevail in today’s world,” he stressed.
Russian Orthodox Church about Hagia Sophia: We regret that our concern has not been heard
The Russian Orthodox Church expresses regret that its concern, like that of other Orthodox churches, about the prospect of converting Hagia Sophia in Constantinople from a museum into a mosque, has not been heard by the Turkish authorities.
The above statement was made by the chairman of the Synodal Department for Church’s Relations with Society and Mass Media of the Patriarchate of Moscow, Vladimir Legoyda.
“We regret that the concern of the Russian Orthodox Church and of other Orthodox churches has not been heard. Unfortunately, this decision is not aimed at pacifying the existing disputes, but, on the contrary, it can lead to even greater divisions, as Patriarch Kirill (of Moscow and all Rus’) said in his statements on the 6th of July,” he said.