Erdogan rejects criticism of Ankara over Hagia Sophia conversion plans


Criticism of Ankara over its plans to reconvert the museum of Hagia Sophia into a mosque are an assault on Turkey’s sovereign rights, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been reported as saying on Friday.

“Making such accusations against our country with regards to Hagia Sophia is tantamount to a direct attack on our sovereignty,” Erdogan was quoted by French media as saying, in response to concerns expressed in recent days by several countries and international bodies over any decision to turn the historic Greek Orthodox cathedral from a museum and UNESCO World Heritage site into a mosque.

Turkey, said Erdogan, will always safeguard the rights of Muslims, who form the majority in Turkey, but also those of other religious groups.

His comments come after the United States and France, among others, urged Ankara to reconsider its plans for the site, and also after Turkey’s Council of State put the fate of the former church into the president’s hands.