Turkey will inform UNESCO about Hagia Sophia moves – foreign minister

People pray outside the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul on July 10, 2020 after the monument’s status as a museum was turned back into a mosque. (AFP)
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Updated 13 July 2020

Turkey will inform UNESCO about Hagia Sophia moves – foreign minister

  • President Tayyip Erdogan declares Hagia Sophia a mosque, said the first prayers would be held there within two weeks
  • UNESCO would review the status of the monument as a World Heritage Site

ISTANBUL: Turkey will inform the United Nation’s cultural body UNESCO about changes to Istanbul’s ancient Hagia Sophia after Ankara converted the museum back into a mosque, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.
On Friday, a Turkish court ruled that the building’s conversion to a museum in 1934 was unlawful and President Tayyip Erdogan, declaring it a mosque, said the first prayers would be held there within two weeks.
UNESCO said on Friday it would review the status of the monument as a World Heritage Site following Erdogan’s enouncement.
Cavusoglu said Ankara was surprised by UNESCO’s reaction and would let it know of further steps that will be taken regarding Hagia Sophia, which was a Byzantine church for nine centuries before the Ottomans converted it to a mosque.
Turkey is sensitive about protecting its historical character, he said. “We have to protect our ancestors’ heritage. The function can be this way or that way — it does not matter,” Cavusoglu told state broadcaster TRT Haber.
Asked about criticism and expressions of concern from Greece, Pope Francis and others, Cavusoglu said the decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque was lawful.
“We respect everyone’s view even if we don’t agree with it but we strongly reject comments made in a way that infringes on Turkey’s sovereign rights,” he said.
Greece condemned the decision on Friday, saying it would have repercussions not only on relations between the two countries, but on Turkey’s ties with the European Union. Pope Francis said on Sunday he was hurt by the decision.


Lebanon information minister quits in first government resignation over blast

Updated 50 min 53 sec ago

Lebanon information minister quits in first government resignation over blast

  • Manal Abdel-Samad apologizes to the Lebanese public for failing them
  • Explosion killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s information minister Manal Abdel Samad on Sunday quit in the first government resignation since a deadly port blast killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

“After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government,” she said in a statement carried by local media, apologizing to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The head of Lebanon’s Maronite church meanwhile called on the entire government to step down over the August 4 explosion, a blast widely seen as shocking proof of the rot at the core of the state apparatus.

Lebanese protesters enraged by the blast vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai joined the chorus of people pressing Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet to step down over a blast he said could be “described as a crime against humanity.”

“It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here or a minister to resign there,” Rai said in a Sunday sermon.

“It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”

Rai echoed calls by Diab for early parliamentary polls — a long-standing demand of a protest movement that began in October, demanding the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt.

He also joined world leaders, international organizations and the angry Lebanese public by pressing for an international probe into an explosion authorities say was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse, where a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years.

President Michel Aoun on Friday rejected calls for an international investigation, which he said would “dilute the truth.”

At least six lawmakers have quit since the explosion.

Under increased pressure from the street and foreign partners exasperated by the leadership’s inability to enact reforms, Diab’s government is fraying at the edges.