Greece has no say over what happens to Istanbul’s Byzantine-era monument of Hagia Sophia, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said, while accusing Athens of undermining the religious freedoms of its Muslim community.
“Hagia Sophia is on Turkish territory, it was conquered,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying in an interview with Turkey’s 24 TV.
“What we do in our country and with our property is up to us,” he was quoted as saying.
Ankara has repeatedly irked Athens by suggesting that Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site which now serves as a museum, could be reconverted into a mosque.
Built in the 6th century, Hagia Sophia was the main seat of the Greek Orthodox church. It remained so until it was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of the city, then-known as Constantinople, in 1453. Turkey’s secular founder turned the structure into a museum in 1935 that attracts millions of tourists each year.
In the same interview, Cavusoglu reportedly said that Athens is the only European capital without a mosque, while accusing the Greek authorities of using concerns over the spread of coronavirus as an excuse for shutting down mosques in western Thrace.