Russia warns Turkey over Hagia Sophia move

Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that was a Byzantine cathedral before being converted into a mosque and is currently a museum, Istanbul, Turkey, June 28, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 July 2020

Russia warns Turkey over Hagia Sophia move

  • Turkey’s top court is debating whether one of the architectural wonders of the world can be redesignated as a mosque
  • Calls for it to serve again as a mosque have sparked anger among Christians and tensions between historic foes and uneasy NATO allies Turkey and Greece

MOSCOW: Russian officials and the Orthodox church on Monday urged caution over calls in Turkey to alter the status of Hagia Sophia, the historic former cathedral in Istanbul.
Turkey’s top court is debating whether one of the architectural wonders of the world can be redesignated as a mosque, a move that could inflame tensions with the West and the Christian community.
A ruling expected in the coming days on the site, which is currently a museum.
The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill said he was “deeply concerned” by the moves, describing Hagia Sophia as “one of the greatest monuments of Christian culture.”
“A threat to Hagia Sophia is a threat to the whole of Christian civilization, and therefore to our spirituality and history,” the Orthodox church leader said in a statement.
“To this day, for every Russian Orthodox person, Hagia Sophia is a great Christian shrine,” he said, urging the Turkish government to be cautious.
He said that altering the current neutral status of the historic building would cause “deep pain” among the Russian people.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the future of the historic site was a domestic Turkish issue, but added that he hoped Hagia Sophia’s status as a World Heritage Site would be “taken into account.”
He said the former cathedral was a “world masterpiece” that has “sacred value” for Russians.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin told reporters Russia hopes “the global significance of the object will be taken into account.”
Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire in the sixth century but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Transforming it into a museum was a key reform of the post-Ottoman authorities under the modern republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
But calls for it to serve again as a mosque have sparked anger among Christians and tensions between historic foes and uneasy NATO allies Turkey and Greece.


Dubai airport hands out roses to Beirut passengers in a show of support

Updated 42 min 39 sec ago

Dubai airport hands out roses to Beirut passengers in a show of support

  • Passengers arriving from Beirut in Dubai were handed white roses
  • “Rebuilding Lebanon is like rebuilding UAE,” a message attached to the roses read

DUBAI: Passengers arriving from Beirut in Dubai were handed white roses on Sunday in a heartfelt gesture of support following last week’s deadly blast. 
The 163 passengers boarding an Emirates airline flight who arrived at Dubai International Airport were gifted the roses from Dubai Customs workers. The flowers came with a message that quoted the founder of the UAE, the late President Sheikh Zayed Al-Nahyan.
The message reads: “Rebuilding Lebanon is like rebuilding UAE.”
Dubai Airport CEO Paul Griffiths said the act reflects the “spirit of kindness at the heart of the aviation community.”  
“I’m sure it has provided some measure of comfort for the Lebanese passengers during these very difficult times,” he said.
Like many other countries, the UAE has sent large shipments of aid to Lebanon since the explosion. 
The massive blasts at the Beirut port killed 158 people and injured 6,000.