Russia calls on Turkey to carefully consider the status of Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the Russian Foreign Ministry expects strict compliance with all requirements related to this status.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation expects balanced decisions from Turkey regarding the possible change in the museum status of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and its conversion into a mosque. The corresponding statement by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova was published on the website of the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, July 2, 2020.

“Of course, we are monitoring the situation around the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul,” the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. “(…) Our fundamental position is that the cathedral is a landmark of exceptional cultural and historical importance as a global human heritage site.”

She emphasized that Hagia Sophia is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and ” we really do hope that all the requirements of this status, including the maintenance and accessibility of the site to the public, will be strictly complied with”.

“We hope that whatever decision on the status of this unique landmark is taken it will be balanced and will take into account the highly delicate nature of this topic for believers, the interfaith context and also the accepted practice of the management of UNESCO heritage sites on the basis of international law,” added Maria Zakharova.

As reported earlier, on July 2, the Turkish Supreme Court ruled that the status of the Hagia Sophia could be changed by decree of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who advocated the conversion of the cathedral from a museum into a mosque. The Russian Orthodox Church disagreed that the fate of the Hagia Sophia is exclusively an internal affair of Turkey since the temple is the universal heritage.