Greece stated that Turkey risks opening up “a huge emotional chasm” with Christian countries if it presses ahead with a proposal to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
On Thursday, Turkey announced that the decision on whether Hagia Sophia turns into a mosque, will be made within 15 days, as reported by Greek City Times.
“The hearing lasted about 17 minutes. The Council of State completed the hearing to explain later the 10th Ministry’s decision on the request for Hagia Sophia. The Council of State will announce its decision within 15 days,” the court said in a statement.
In response, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that “Hagia Sophia is a world heritage monument… Many countries, culminating in the intervention of the U.S State Department, highlighted this very point, urging Turkey not to take steps which would create a huge emotional chasm between the Christians of the world and Turkey,” during the daily press briefing.
Greece’s Culture Minister Lina Mendoni speaking on the radio on Thursday, stressed that Hagia Sophia is an extremely important monument of world cultural heritage that has had no religious use since the 1930s.
“Today, with Erdogan’s initiatives and moves, his desire is to return it to the conditions of the 15th century,” she said.
Mendoni added that the conversion of the museum into a mosque would degrade the world’s radiance of Hagia Sophia.
Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Turkey not to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque and maintain that its status as a museum should remain, as reported by Greek City Times.
His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, also warned this week that if Turkey persists with plans to reconvert Hagia Sophia into a mosque, it risks turning Christians against Muslims.
Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, Assistant Director-General for Culture said that UNESCO sent a letter to the Turkish authorities at the beginning of June regarding Erdogan’s announcement to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
The UNESCO Executive made the comments during an interview with Greek newspaper Ta NEA last week, where he added that they have not yet received a reply. He stressed that the Convention on World Cultural Heritage stipulates that before any decision can be taken to change the status of a Cultural Heritage Monument, such as Hagia Sophia, a decision of the relevant UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee is required.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in 537 but turned into a mosque following the Ottoman capture of Constantinople May 29, 1453. It was then turned into a museum in 1935 shortly after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of Turkish Republic.
Earlier this year, excerpts from the Qur’an were recited inside Hagia Sophia to commemorate the Fall of Constantinople. The Greek Foreign Ministry commented on this provocative action, saying that the “reading of excerpts from the Qur’an inside Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the World Cultural Heritage Site, and that has been a museum since 1935, is an unacceptable attempt to alter its monumental character and provoke a response to their religious sentiment.”