Turkey on Tueaday dubbed ‘Hagia Sophia’ an issue of national sovereignty and rebuked the European Union over its condemnation of its decision to convert Istanbul’s iconic museum to a mosque.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told at a joint news conference with his visiting Maltese counterpart, “We reject the word ‘condemnation.’"
“This is a matter that concerns Turkey’s sovereign rights,” he said, reports AP.
Hw argued that several mosques in EU-member Spain had been converted into churches.
Last week, Turkey cancelled the sixth-century former cathedral-turned-mosque’s 86-year status as a museum and said it would open for Muslim prayer as of July 24.
The decision sparked criticism in the United States, Greece, and other Western countries as well as from Orthodox Christian leaders.
Pope Francis expressed sadness over the move.
EU foreign ministers, holding their first face-to-face meeting in months on Monday, declared that they “condemned” the decision.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said there was “broad support to call on the Turkish authorities to urgently consider and reverse this decision.”
On Tuesday, Greece again expressed dismay at Turkey’s decision.
Meanwhile, officials from Turkey's religious affairs authority said the landmark structure can remain open to visitors outside of prayer hours, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.