EU expresses concern over Turkey changing the status of Hagia Sophia, drilling in Eastern Mediterranean

Turkey’s decision to convert the iconic Hagia Sophia Museum back to a mosque has been criticised by the Foreign Ministers of the European Union on July 13, in a first face-to-face meeting since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The EU’s Foreign Ministers said that the changing of the status of Hagia Sophia “will inevitably fuel mistrust, promote renewed divisions between religious communities and undermine efforts at dialogue and cooperation.”

Turkey topped the agenda of the 27-member bloc, which reached “a consensus among member states that EU-Turkey relations were currently under strain because of worrying developments affecting the EU’s interests.” Apart from the issue of Hagia Sophia, the EU Foreign Ministers even condemned the “illegal” and “unilateral” drilling by Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean and asked Turkey to stop it and contribute actively to a political solution in Libya and to respect the commitments it had taken, including the UN arms embargo.

The status of the Hagia Sophia was changed on July 10 by the Turkish State Council and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the first Muslim prayer at the site will be held on July 24.

In Istanbul, he also denounced any criticism over Ankara’s intention to convert the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque, claiming, “The accusations against our country on the Hagia Sophia mean a direct attack on our sovereignty rights … We will continue to protect the rights of Muslims, the dominant faith in our country, and those of other religions.”

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