On July 3rd, Athens said that Greece would do “whatever it takes” to protect its sovereignty, including even entering discussion with Turkey on bilateral issues.
“If the only difference we have is on the proclamation of an exclusive economic zone, then we are ready to negotiate and sit at the table with Turkey and discuss the issue,” Alternate Minister for Foreign Affairs Miltiades Varvitsiotis said in an interview in Athens.
“But if the issue is to contest Greek sovereignty over islands in the Aegean sea, then the response is no,” the minister added. “We’re not discussing our sovereignty, we’re not giving away Greek soil and we will do whatever it takes to defend it.”
Separately from migrants, economy, tourism, the deals between Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and Turkey, there is also another issue: Turkey’s plan to turn Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque.
Erdogan has long pushed for the conversion, rebuffing criticism from the U.S. and Greece. The site, which is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, carries a special significance for Greeks, who see it as one of the most important Christian monuments and a legacy of an Orthodox tradition dating back to the Byzantine Empire.
“Hagia Sophia is a world heritage monument… Many countries, culminating in the intervention of the US State Department, highlighted this very point, urging Turkey not to take steps which would create a huge emotional chasm between the Christians of the world and Turkey,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told a news briefing.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on July 1st urged Turkey to let Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to remain a museum and to ensure it remains accessible to all.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and based in Istanbul, said converting it to a mosque would disappoint Christians and would “fracture” East and West.
Completed in the year 537 in what was then Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine empire, Hagia Sophia was the biggest cathedral in Christendom for 900 years before becoming a mosque after the city fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
It has remained a museum since 1934, under the Kemal Ataturk, founder of the secular Turkish republic.
The biggest proponent to turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque, once again, is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
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