Russia says the conversion of Hagia Sophia is a Turkish matter

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Relations between Moscow and Ankara will not deteriorate due to the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked in an interview with Avtoradio radio station.

"[Our] Turkish partners explained that everything will be preserved in the best possible way, and everyone will be able to visit Hagia Sophia. Moreover, I will tell you, there were quite expensive tickets to Hagia Sophia,” Peskov said. “And now there will be no tickets, the entrance will be free. In this regard, our tourists will benefit.”

Peskov expressed the belief that this decision on the Turkish side will not harm the relations between Moscow and Ankara, because the official Russian line is that (on the transformation of the Hagia Sophia) that it is an internal affair of Turkey.

"Furthermore, we hope that in any decision, our Turkish partners will take into account the status of Hagia Sophia as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the fact that the cathedral is sacred to many Christians," the Kremlin spokesman said. According to Peskov, this means that Russian tourists going to Constantinople should be able to visit the cathedral.

The Kremlin spokesman recalled that the Turkish side had pledged that "everything will be maintained in the best possible way and everyone will be able to visit the temple."

The Russian official added that the Russian authorities respect the negative position of the Russian Orthodox Church on this issue.

"We respect the position of our Patriarch as Orthodox believers (…) differs from the state position," he added.

Peskov then praised the relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“They meet, and both are responsible for their words, and both are in control of the situation, and both are able to make responsible and quick decisions, which they do,” Peskov said.

He said such an approach was key to finding solutions to difficult problems, “as it was in the Syrian issues and in other situations.”