Turkey reopens some mosques amid coronavirus infection slowdown

Above, municipality workers disinfect the courtyard of historical Haci Bayram Mosque in Ankara, Turkey on May 28, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Turkey reopens some mosques amid coronavirus infection slowdown

  • Prayers were held in the courtyards of selected mosques

ANKARA: Worshippers in Turkey have held their first communal Friday prayers in 74 days after the government reopened some mosques as part of its plans to relax measures in place to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Prayers were held in the courtyards of selected mosques, to minimize the risk of infection.
Authorities distributed masks at the entrance to the mosques, sprayed hand sanitizers, and checked temperatures.
Worshippers were asked to bring their own prayer rugs, but some mosques offered disposable paper rugs which were placed 1.5 meters apart.
The partial opening of the mosques follows a slowdown in the confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths in the country.
Later on Friday, Islamic prayers will also be recited in Istanbul’s 6th-century Hagia Sophia — the main cathedral of the Byzantine Empire which was converted into a mosque with the Ottoman conquest of the city, then known as Constantinople, in 1453. The prayers are being held to mark the 567th anniversary of the conquest.
The Muslim prayers at the Hagia Sophia are highly controversial, hitting at the heart of the country’s religious-secular divide.
In 1935, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish republic’s founder, converted the building into a museum that attracts millions of tourists, but some Islamic groups want it reconverted into a mosque. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who leads an Islamic-oriented party and has himself recited prayers inside Hagia Sophia, has also spoken about the possibility of turning the domed complex back into a place of worship.
Greece has in the past protested the use of Hagia Sophia, the main seat of the Greek Orthodox church and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, for religious purposes.
The celebrations marking the Muslim conquest of the city kicked off with Erdogan saluting from the balcony of a presidential summer residence, a flotilla of boats sailing past on the Bosporus waterway.
On Thursday, Erdogan announced plans to lift restrictions on movement between cities and reopen restaurants, cafes, sports centers, beaches and museums on June 1.


Sudan says Nile dam talks delayed for ‘consultations’

Updated 4 min 47 sec ago

Sudan says Nile dam talks delayed for ‘consultations’

  • Talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan were suspended last week after Addis Ababa

KHARTOUM: Sudan on Monday said that negotiations over Ethiopia’s massive and controversial dam construction on the Blue Nile have been postponed for a week.
Talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan were suspended last week after Addis Ababa insisted on linking them to renegotiating a deal on sharing the waters of the Blue Nile.
“A meeting at the level of ministers of the three countries took place on Monday, during which Sudan asked to postpone the next meeting for one week for internal consultations,” Sudan’s water ministry said in a statement.
Egypt and Sudan view the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dam as a threat to vital water supplies, while Ethiopia considers it crucial for its electrification and development.
South Africa, which holds the presidency of the African Union and is mediating negotiations, has urged the countries to “remain involved” in the talks.