“UNESCO has been investigating the issue regarding the conversion of Hagia Sophia into an Islamic mosque since Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made such an announcement,” said Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, in an interview with the Greek newspaper Ta Nea.
The Chilean official said that UNESCO had sent a letter to the competent Turkish authorities since the beginning of June, but they had not received any reply. At the same time, he told the newspaper Ta Nea that the World Heritage Convention stipulated that before taking any decision regarding the status of a Cultural Heritage Monument, such as Hagia Sophia, a decision of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage is required.
“We are waiting for a reply to a letter that we have sent in which we raise a series of questions to the competent authorities in Turkey. When a member state (Greece) submits a request to our organisation about a specific monument of World Cultural Heritage, the matter must be addressed to the state in which the monument is located (Turkey) and after that, we wait for a reply,” he said.
He added, “We will continue to send letters until we receive a reply. The matter will be assessed at the next meeting of the Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In fact, the Convention stipulates that a report must be sent to the competent authorities for any changes in the status of a site that belongs to the 1,241 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.”
The matter has come to the attention of UNESCO following the intervention of several “third parties”, said the senior official. He referred to the requests submitted by the Greek government to the international organisation but also to a relevant letter sent by a citizens’ organisation.