Greek National Commission continues protest over Hagia Sophia conversion to UNESCO



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Letters to the national commissions for UNESCO were sent by the president of the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO, Ekaterini Tzitzikosta, asking for support for the preservation of Hagia Sophia as a world heritage site and museum.

Yesterday was a difficult day for Christians worldwide. Hagia Sophia operated as a mosque and celebrated the first Muslim prayer inside.

In 1985 UNESCO declared Hagia Sophia a World Heritage Site, while in 1934 Turkey decided to operate it as a museum. The decision of the Supreme Court of Turkey and its ratification by the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to turn it into a mosque provoked the reaction of UNESCO, which among other things, called for the preservation of the monument.

The president of the Greek National Commission for UNESCO in Greece, Ekaterini Tzitzikosta, speaking to Sputnik Hellas, described yesterday as a difficult day, emphasising the global character of Hagia Sophia.

Tzitzikosta has already sent letters to the UNESCO National Committees - a total of 199 - asking for support for the preservation of Hagia Sophia as a World Heritage Site.

"We have sent letters to all the national committees asking them to support not Greece, but the intercultural dialogue and the chain of monuments because Hagia Sophia is a monument of world heritage," said Tzitzikosta.

Meanwhile, Heiko Maas, Germany's Foreign Minister, stressed that Turkey's decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque does not help dialogue with Ankara and the EU.

In particular, Maas said that "a logical dialogue between Turkey and the EU is necessary."

In fact, he points out the following: "The transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque is not a contribution to the reconciliation between the peoples. It is a decision we cannot understand, as the significance of this unique building, with its World Heritage status, extends far beyond Turkey. [...] Ankara's decision on Hagia Sophia does not help much. Already without this additional conflict, a forward-looking dialogue between the EU and Turkey is hindered."

Elsewhere in his remarks, Maas said other points of contention should be resolved, such as Turkey's drilling off the coasts of Cyprus and Crete.

He also claims that UNESCO will decide what effect Turkey's measures will have on the Hagia Sophia status as a World Heritage Site, saying: "I hope things will develop in the near future so that not even the Hagia Sophia regime is threatened."