The Greek government responded on Monday to Turkish President’s Erdogan’s threat to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque by saying that this represents an insult not only to Christians but to the international community.
Greek Foreign Minister George Katrougalos said that Hagia Sophia “It is not only a great temple of Christendom — the largest for many centuries — it also belongs to humanity. It has been recognized by UNESCO as part of our global cultural heritage.”
“So any questioning of this status is not just an insult to the sentiments of Christians, it is an insult to the international community and international law,” he continued.
“We want to hope that the correct statements of March 16 by the Turkish leadership will be valid and there will be no change of this status,” he added, in reference to a speech by Erdogan in which he ruled out its conversion into a mosque.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced the possibility of Hagia Sophia reverting to a mosque on March 24th, the eve of Greek Independence Day.
“This is not unlikely. We might even change its name to Ayasofya Mosque,” Erdogan had said during a live interview with the Turkish broadcaster TGRT.
“This is not a strange proposal,” he was quoted as saying by Daily Sabah regarding the calls to convert the historical building.
“As you know, the mosque was converted to a museum in 1935, as a reflection of the (Republican People’s Party) CHP mentality. We may as well take a step and change that,” Erdogan concluded, making a reference to the harshly secularist policies of the 1930s CHP, which is the main opposition party today.
Asked whether the entrance fee to the city landmark might be waived, he said: “It’s not impossible… but we would not do it under the name ‘museum’ but ‘Hagia Sophia mosque’.”
The Turkish president added: “Tourists come and go at the Blue Mosque. Do they pay anything? … Well, we will do the same with the Hagia Sofia.”