Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed preserving Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia as universal heritage in a phone call requested by Athens.
Putin and Mitsotakis “focused on the change of the status of Hagia Sophia cathedral in Istanbul,” TASS cited Kremlin as saying.
“[They] emphasized the unmatched cultural, historic and religious significance of that unique World Heritage Site and noted the importance of preserving it as universal heritage and a symbol of peace and cohesion,” it said.
According to the Kremlin, the talks touched upon “some regional issues, including settlement in Libya and the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
“[Putin and Mitsotakis] considered in detail the future advancement of Russian-Greek cooperation in a variety of fields. [They] noted the need to accelerate the work of the joint commission on economic, industrial, scientific and technical cooperation, placing an emphasis on extension of legal groundwork for a bilateral relationship,” it said.
They also discussed the reciprocal Year of History, scheduled for 2021, including the celebrations in Greece marking the 200th anniversary of its War for Independence.
On July 10, the Turkish Council of State invalidated Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s 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 a mosque.
Local Orthodox Churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church, voiced their regret over the decision, along with UNESCO.
Separately, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) head invited parties with seats in parliament to Hagia Sophia’s opening as a mosque, except the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) and Democratic Regions Party (DBP).
Islamist Felicity Party received the invitation later than other parties.