Antony Blinken, a senior adviser to Democratic US presidential candidate Joe Biden, has come under fire for not taking a more emphatic position regarding the debate on the status of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
“Joe Biden has long been committed to the preservation of cultural and religious sites. The Hagia Sophia is a [UNESCO] World Heritage Site and shared sacred space for people of many faiths, which is why it’s so important to ensure continued access for all visitors,” Blinken said in a tweet on July 2.
His comment was on Monday criticized by the Hellenic Leaders diaspora organization.
“We appreciate Joe Biden’s commitment to cultural and religious sites, but ensuring access to all visitors isn’t what is at stake here. After all ‘visitors’ can go to the Blue Mosque,” the organization replied on Twitter, while accusing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of “trying to score political points by erasing Hagia Sophia’s Christian past.”
Erdogan has proposed restoring the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a sixth century building originally built as a Christian cathedral and now one of Turkey’s most visited monuments.
A Turkish court is set to announce its verdict on the issue later this month.