Greece would welcome Russia’s support in opposing Turkey’s decision to convert Istanbul’s iconic Byzantine cathedral Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque, Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said on Friday.
“Greece looks forward Russia’s support on issues related to their joint cultural journey and heritage, such as the conversion of Hagia Sophia, a monument of the Orthodox world, from a museum to a mosque,” Varvitsiotis said, adding that a joint position in international organizations would help protect this emblematic monument of the joint culture of the two countries.
He was speaking at the official of the Greece-Russia History Year at the Historical Museum of Athens on Friday.
At the launch, a message was read out from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Our duty is to retain and increase the good traditions of friendship and mutual assistance,” Putin’s message read, and “to pass on to younger generations a thoughtful approach to our common history, and to faithfully honor the achievements of our heroes.”
Referring to the bicentennial of the Greek War for Independence, Putin noted that “hundreds of Russian volunteers fought next to Greek patriots until Greece achieved its independence.”
Varvitsiotis said he hoped the history year would facilitate the completion of the negotiations on the return of Greece’s Jewish communitiy archives from Russian state archives.