EU, Turkey Clash Over Hagia Sophia, Mediterranean Drilling

BRUSSELS—Turkey and the European Union clashed on July 13 over Ankaras decision to change the status of Hagia Sophia to a mosque from a museum and its continued energy exploration in disputed Mediterranean waters.

After their first face-to-face meeting in months, the 27 EU foreign ministers said that they “condemned the Turkish decision to convert such an emblematic monument as the Hagia Sophia,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said.

“This decision will inevitably fuel the mistrust, promote renewed division between religious communities and undermine our efforts at dialog and cooperation,” he said after the meeting of EU foreign ministers.

He said there was “broad support to call on the Turkish authorities to urgently consider and reverse this decision.” Hagia Sophia was originally built in Istanbul as a Christian cathedral, and the pope and others have expressed their sadness and criticism of the move by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said July 13 that the EU was “faced with a challenge and insult” meted out by Erdogan.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu hit back and rejected international intervention concerning its decision to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

“Hagia Sophia was left as a legacy as a mosque and must be used as a mosque,” Cavusoglu told state broadcaster TRT. “We strongly reject comments that amount to an intervention in Turkeys sovereign rights.”

Borrell was in Turkey last week where he also discussed Ankaras disputes with Greece and Cyprus over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean region. Turkey has dispatched warship-escorted vessels to drill for gas in an area where Cyprus insists it has exclusive rights. The Turkish government has said its acting to protect its interests in the areas natural resources and those of Turkish Cypriots.

Petsas said that Turkish drilling was blatantly contrary to international obligations and international law” and said that Greece would be looking to prepare a list for possible “political, diplomatic and financial” sanctions.

Again, Cavusoglu stood firm.

“If Greece were to turn away from iRead More – Source

Show More

Related Articles