Greece Launches Campaign to Raise International Awareness of Hagia Sophia



 

Greek Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. File photo

A working group will be set up shortly in order to draw up a specific road map of actions to raise awareness within the international community about Turkey’s conversion of Hagia Sophia to a mosque and to protect the priceless monument, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias announced on Wednesday.

All the necessary framework was drawn up at a meeting held earlier on Wednesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs between Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni, Greek Ambassador to UNESCO Maria Diamantopoulou, Chairperson of the Greek National Committee for UNESCO Ekaterini Tzitzikosta and other officials.

Following the Turkish government’s recent decision to change the status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site from that of a museum into a mosque — a decision that has been almost universally condemned — Greece is working to mobilize the international community to protect the priceless monument.

“We have repeatedly stressed that the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque does not constitute a Greek-Turkish difference,” the Foreign Minister said after the meeting.

“However, of course, for us Greeks, this monument has special significance and value. That is why we have decided to raise the issue through international initiatives that we will undertake, as European citizens and as citizens of the world community, talking to all the international organizations, and primarily, of course, with UNESCO,” he added.

Dendias pointed out that Greece’s aim is to protect the universal value of the monument and that is why it intends to create an umbrella of specific actions. After all, as he noted, the universality of the monument was highlighted by the extremely strong reactions seen in the world community after the Turkish decision.

“We agreed with the Minister to create a small working group, which within ten days will propose, as a result of the meeting and exchange of views heard here today, a specific action plan, which (after we adopt it jointly) we will implement in the immediate future,” Dendias said.

On her part, Greek Minister of Culture Mendoni stressed that the issue is not bilateral, as Hagia Sophia is one of the most important human achievements and likewise one of the most important world monuments, representing a number of universal values.

It was precisely these ecumenical values that are in danger of being lost through its conversion into a mosque, she added.

As Mendoni noted, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the initiative at the moment, while the Ministry of Culture “in the part that pertains to our responsibilities, will fully support this national effort.”

“I believe that the level of discussion was such as to create prospects for the Greek government as a whole to handle this issue internationally,” she stated.