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.


Egyptian-Cypriot-Greece summit discusses Turkey’s provocations

Updated 21 October 2020

Egyptian-Cypriot-Greece summit discusses Turkey’s provocations

  • El-Sisi underlined the need to enhance the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Greece and Cyprus

CAIRO: A tripartite summit was held on Wednesday in the Cypriot capital Nicosia between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades, along with Greek Prime Minister Kyriacos Mitsotakis.

The summit, the eighth between the leaders of the three countries, focused on discussing means of cooperation and coordination regarding issues of concern. 

Bassam Rady, the spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, said: “The tripartite summit was held to evaluate the development of cooperation among the three countries in various fields, and to follow-up on joint projects currently implemented as part of the trilateral cooperation mechanism.”

Rady added that the summit also sought to “exchange visions on means of facing the challenges in the Middle East region.”

El-Sisi underlined the need to enhance the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Greece and Cyprus, saying: “We have decided to counter acts of provocation and violations in the Middle East.”

He indirectly accused Turkey of committing violations, transferring mercenaries to conflict zones, and blackmailing Europe with the issue of immigration.“We have signed the founding charter of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum,” he added.

Regarding the Syrian crisis, the president said: “We reject any foreign existence on Syrian territories.”

Meanwhile, the Cypriot president stressed that Turkey was causing more tension in the area, jeopardizing regional stability, interfering in the Syrian crisis, and sending mercenaries to Libya and the Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

Anastasiades said: “We underlined the need to take strong measures against those who support militant and terrorist groups in the region.” He pointed out that the trilateral relations were not against any state, but rather aimed to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East. 

He also called on Turkey to respect international laws and not to violate Cypriot sovereignty.

“We discussed means of enhancing tripartite cooperation in various fields especially energy,” he said. “We welcome the establishment of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum,” he added, whilst reiterating the need to stop the flow of illegal immigration via the Mediterranean.

The Cypriot president also described Turkey’s hunt for gas in Greek waters in the Eastern Mediterranean as “illegal.”

Meanwhile Mitsotakis said that the practices of the Turkish leadership were unfair to its people. “We don’t want to exclude Turkey but its practices lead to that action,” he warned.

This is the eighth such tripartite summit between since 2014. It coincides with Greece’s calls on the EU to consider suspending the Customs Union Agreement with Turkey.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias delivered a letter to the European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyito, to consider the measure as a response to Turkey’s repeated violations of the agreement, in addition to its unilateral measures of gas and oil excavations in the Eastern Mediterranean.