Greece denounces Turkey’s decision to convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum into mosque

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday strongly condemned Turkey’s decision to convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque, warning of its impact on Turkey’s relations with Greece and the European Union.

Hagia Sophia is an iconic Byzantine church built in the 5th century. Throughout the centuries, the former Greek Orthodox Christian church had also served as a Roman Catholic cathedral and an Ottoman mosque as the city changed rulers. Since 1935, Hagia Sophia has been open as a museum. It has been recognized by UNESCO as a monument of world cultural heritage since 1985.

“Greece categorically condemns Turkey’s decision to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque. 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,” Mitsotakis said, according to an e-mailed press statement.

“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,” the prime minister added.

Earlier on Friday, the Turkish State Council reached a verdict on the fate of the monument and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the first Muslim prayer at the site will be held on July 24.