U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Oct. 6 urged the Trump administration to “press” Turkey with regards to the eastern Mediterrean crisis and called on Ankara to reverse its decision to convert Istanbul’s Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.
“The Trump administration must press Turkey to refrain from any further provocative actions in the region against Greece, including threats of force, to create the space for diplomacy to succeed. I also call on Turkish President Erdoğan to reverse his recent decision to convert the Hagia Sophia to a mosque and to return this treasure to its former status as a museum, ensuring equal access for all, including the Orthodox faithful,” Biden said in a statement.
This is not the first time that Biden has issued a statement with regards to Hagia Sophia. In July, Biden had also released statement saying that he deeply “regrets” Ankara’s move regarding the matter.
“I deeply regret the Turkish government’s decision to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and urge Turkish President Recep Erdoğan to reverse his decision and instead keep this treasured place in its current status as a museum, ensuring equal access for all,” he had said in a written statement.
On July 10, Turkey’s Council of State — the highest administrative court in the country – paved the way for Hagia Sophia’s conversion back into mosque despite international warnings against such a move.
Shortly after the court’s decision, Erdoğan handed over the iconic structure’s control to the country’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet).
Turkey in August condemned Biden over his December call for the U.S. to back opponents of Erdoğan. Biden’s comments to New York Times editors resurfaced in a video that shows him saying the U.S. should adopt a new approach to the “autocrat” Erdoğan.