NEWS

Minister: Russian statement on Hagia Sophia 'almost hostile'

TAGS: Religion, Diplomacy

Alternate Migration and Asylum Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos said Sunday a Russian spokesman's statement on Hagia Sophia Friday was “almost hostile”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday, in a radio interview, that Turkey's decision to reconvert the iconic Hagia Sophia Byzantine cathedral in Istanbul to a mosque would not harm relations between Moscow and Ankara and that he understood the move is an internal affair.

Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, had been a museum since 1934. It was a Christian church, the Byzantine Empire's most important one, from the 6th to the 15th centuries, and a mosque from 1453.

“There were rather expensive tickets to Hagia Sophia, but now there will be no tickets, admission will be free. In this regard, our tourists will win,” Peskov said.

“This statement was almost a hostile one,” Koumoutsakos, a former diplomat, said in a TV interview Saturday. He added that Ankara's decision intentionally poisoned relations with Greece and said the European Union must take faster steps to counter Turkish provocations, of which Hagia Sophia's status is just one.

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