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Kremlin expects Turkey to uphold Hagia Sophia’s significance as world heritage site

Some Turkish politicians earlier called for reviewing the cathedral's museum status
Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions AP Photo
Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul's main tourist attractions
© AP Photo

MOSCOW, July 6. /TASS/. The Kremlin hopes that Turkey will keep Hagia Sophia’s status as a UNESCO world heritage site in mind when deciding on the fate of the historic landmark, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.

"We by all means hope that Hagia Sophia’s status as a world heritage site will be taken into consideration," he said.

"Of course, this is a world masterpiece beloved by tourists coming to Turkey from all over the world and especially by tourists from Russia who not only recognize Hagia Sophia’s tourist value but also it’s sacred spiritual value," he added.

"We do hope that all this will be taken into account by our Turkish colleagues and partners," he repeated.

Peskov stressed that the Kremlin cannot comment on Turkey’s decision itself. "This is the Turkish republic’s internal affair," he stressed.

The Kremlin spokesman recalled that Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin had already made statements on this matter.

Amid the latest news about the historic landmark, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill called for preserving the neutral status of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which is a symbol for millions of Christians. He was alarmed by calls from some Turkish politicians to review Hagia Sophia’s museum status, which is one of the greatest monuments to Christian culture.

Earlier on Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin told reporters, Russia expects that Turkey will take into account the global significance of Hagia Sophia, when deciding on the fate of this historical monument.

Previously, CNN Turk reported that Turkey’s State Council discussed the matter on July 2, upon the instructions from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The debate lasted 17 minutes, and the decision is expected to be published within the next 15 days.

The Hagia Sophia is a Byzantine architectural monument. The cathedral was constructed between 532 and 537 AD by a decree from then Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

After the fall of Byzantine Empire in 1453, the cathedral was converted into a mosque. In 1935, under the decree of the Turkish government signed by the founder of the modern Turkish state Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the building was transformed into a museum. White plaster covering Christian mosaics and murals was removed. In 1985, the building was included on the UNESCO World Heritage’s list of monuments.