Istanbul / Berlin (Reuters) – After criticism from Unesco about the conversion of the previous Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque, Turkey has announced that it will inform the UN institution in the future.
The Unesco reaction had been surprised and the organization would be informed of the next steps, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Istanbul on Monday.
Unesco had declared on Friday to review the building’s status as a World Heritage Site. The highest administrative court in Turkey had previously ruled that the conversion of the Istanbul building into a museum by state founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1934 was illegal. Shortly afterwards, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree allowing Muslims to pray again in Hagia Sophia.
On criticism from Greece or from Pope Francis about the transformation, Cavasoglu said that Turkey respects everyone’s opinion, even if it does not agree with them. “But we firmly reject comments that violate Turkish sovereign rights.”
A spokesman for the German foreign ministry said in Berlin that it regretted Turkey’s move and that the country should have discussed the conversion with Unesco – but that did not happen.