Turkey’s Erdogan rejects criticism over Hagia Sophia landmark

People visit the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul, on July 2, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 03 July 2020

Turkey’s Erdogan rejects criticism over Hagia Sophia landmark

  • Turkey’s highest administrative court is considering whether the emblematic site and former cathedral can be redesignated as a mosque
  • Erdogan said last year it had been a “very big mistake” to convert the Hagia Sophia into a museum

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday rejected criticism over his willingness to convert Istanbul’s famed Hagia Sophia landmark into a mosque despite international and domestic concern.
“Charges against our country over Hagia Sophia are a direct attack on our right to sovereignty,” Erdogan said.
Turkey’s highest administrative court is considering whether the emblematic site and former cathedral can be redesignated as a mosque, prompting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday to urge Turkey to keep the site in its current status as a museum.
The Council of State convened on Thursday to evaluate the case brought by an association to change the museum’s status.
The court, known as Danistay in Turkish, must announce its decision within 15 days.
Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire in the sixth century but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Transforming it into a museum was a key reform of the post-Ottoman authorities under the modern republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
But calls for it to serve again as a mosque have led to anger among Christians and tensions between historic foes and uneasy NATO allies Ankara and Athens, which closely monitors Byzantine heritage in Turkey.
Erdogan said last year it had been a “very big mistake” to convert the Hagia Sophia into a museum.


Haftar agrees to lift Libya oil blockade with conditions

Updated 18 September 2020

Haftar agrees to lift Libya oil blockade with conditions

  • Pro-Haftar groups supported by the Petroleum Facilities Guard blockaded key oilfields and export terminals on January 17

BENGHAZI: Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar announced Friday a conditional lifting of a months-long blockade on oilfields and ports by his forces.
“We have decided to resume oil production and export on condition of a fair distribution of revenues” and guarantee they “will not be used to support terrorism,” he said on television.
Pro-Haftar groups supported by the Petroleum Facilities Guard blockaded key oilfields and export terminals on January 17 to demand what they called a fair share of hydrocarbon revenues.
The blockade, which has resulted in more than $9.8 billion in lost revenue, according to National Petroleum Company (NOC), has exacerbated electricity and fuel shortages in the country.
Dressed in his military uniform, Haftar said the command of his forces had “put aside all military and political considerations” to respond to the “deterioration of living conditions” in Libya, which has Africa’s largest oil reserves.
The announcement comes after hundreds of Libyans protested last week in the eastern city of Benghazi, one of Haftar’s strongholds, and other cities over corruption, power cuts and shortages in petrol and cash.
Protesting peacefully at first, protesters on Sunday set fire to the headquarters of the parallel eastern government in Benghazi and attacked the police station in Al-Marj.
Police officers fired live ammunition to disperse them in Al-Marj, leaving at least one dead and several wounded, according to witnesses and the UN mission in Libya.
Libya has been in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
The country’s oil revenues are managed by the NOC and the central bank, both based in Tripoli, which is also the seat of Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
Haftar runs a rival administration based in the country’s east.
Haftar— who has the backing of Egypt, the UAE and Russia — launched an offensive against Tripoli in April last year.
After 14 months of fierce fighting, pro-GNA forces backed by Turkey expelled his troops from much of western Libya and pushed them to Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s rich oil fields and export terminals.