Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO world heritage site, states UNESCO’s Assistant Dir. Gen Bandarin

Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Amanatidis asked for UNESCO‘s support to the issue that arose after the Koran reading and holding of prayers in Hagia Sophia, which was attended by the head of Turkey’s Directorate for Religious Affairs and broadcast by Turkey’s state television channel.

Amanatidis met with UNESCO Assistant Director-General, Francesco Bandarin, at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, and denounced Turkey’s new provocative behaviour.

“Our position is clear and we will make it even clearer. Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO world heritage site,” Bandarin stressed in a joint press conference with the Greek minister. He added that Hagia Sophia must be preserved as a museum as it is one of the most important monuments of the cultural heritage in the world and has a high symbolism for many cultures, so it is global.”

“It is not the first time, we have told the Turkish government that it should stay as it is and we will repeat it,” he said.

The Greek Foreign Ministry had earlier made a statement: “We condemn the Koran reading and holding of prayers in Hagia Sophia, which was attended by the head of Turkey’s Directorate for Religious Affairs and broadcast by Turkey’s state television channel.

Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO world heritage site. The attempt to convert it into a mosque through the reading of the Koran, holding of prayers, and a number of other actions ? is an affront to the international community, which needs to be duly mobilised and to react.

This is a clearly unacceptable challenge to the religious sentiments of Christians everywhere and to all those who honour humanity’s cultural heritage, and it is taking place at a time when the interfaith dialogue should be promoted rather than undermined.

We call on Turkey to conduct itself as a modern and democratic country, to protect the ecumenical nature of Hagia Sophia, and to respect the age-old tradition of this global monument.”

Build in 537 AD, the Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica (church) of Hagia Sophia, served as the seat of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch until 1453, the Fall of Constantinople.

It was built on orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

After Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans, Sultan Mehmed ordered the main church of Orthodox Christianity to be converted into a mosque.

Founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk turned the historical monument into a museum in 1935.

Ioannis AmanatidisUNESCOFrancesco Bandarin
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