NEWS

Greek PM to visit Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

TAGS: Turkey, Diplomacy, Religion

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will on Wednesday visit the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

The visit, which takes place on the second day of Tsipras’s trip to Turkey, is scheduled to take place at 9.15 a.m.

Built in the 6th century under order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Hagia Sophia – a UNESCO world heritage site – was once Christendom’s greatest cathedral.

It served as the seat of the Greek Orthodox Church before it was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in 1453.

It was turned into a museum by the Turkish government in 1935.

The Greek premier will then visit the Halki Greek Orthodox seminary on an island near Istanbul at 11 a.m.

Perched atop a hill on the Marmara islet with the same name, the seminary was operated by the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate until a Turkish court ordered the school shut under a law curbing non-state religious education.

In Ankara on Tuesday, Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outlined their established positions on key topics just a few hours after Turkish authorities issued a provocative announcement, offering a bounty for the return of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece in 2016.

Among the positive developments were decisions to keep channels of communication open, for the country’s defense ministers to meet soon, and for the establishment of a joint business forum in Thessaloniki.

Apart from bilateral issues, talks also focused on the migration crisis and the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal to curb arrivals.

Late Tuesday, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, the spiritual leader of the world's Greek Orthodox Christians, attended an official dinner hosted by Erdogan in Ankara for Tsipras.

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