Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has urged monitoring experts of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to release their report on the conversion of Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia into a mosque as soon as possible.
Lavrov said on Oct. 26 in an interview with Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) that this report is important for the evaluation of the iconic structure’ condition.
“We hope that according to the results of the inspection conducted on October 5-9 of this year, the commission’s conclusions will be presented soon, including the expert report regarding the quality of the restoration work conducted by the Turkish side as well as ideas on observing open access to Hagia Sophia of representatives of all confessions,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by TASS.
Lavrov emphasized that for Russia Hagia Sophia is particularly valuable from the spiritual point of view.
“We proceed from the fact that the Turkish side, as we were assured numerous times, will be guided by principles of mutual respect, will treat the feelings of the Orthodox believers with due attention and will fulfill the obligations it undertook to observe all rules and conditions related to the status of the site, will ensure its complete integrity and accessibility for tourists and pilgrims,” the Russian top diplomat said.
said that the Russian side has regularly informed the Turkish
partners of its position, both at high and the highest levels.
On July 10, the Turkish Council of State invalidated a 1934 decree that had bestowed Hagia Sophia with its museum status. Later in the day, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed an order declaring Hagia Sophia open for Muslim worship. Local Orthodox Churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church, voiced their regret over the decision, along with UNESCO.
Turkish authorities have previously assured UNESCO leadership of their intention to work closely with the organization in carrying out the planned restoration works in Hagia Sophia.