July 14, 2020 - 13:39 AMT
EU urges Turkey to "reverse" Hagia Sophia reconversion plan

The European Union’s top diplomat lashed out at Turkey for its plan to reconvert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia monument to a mosque, saying the move will stoke religious tensions, Bloomberg reports.

“This decision will inevitably fuel mistrust, provoke renewed division between religious communities and undermine our efforts at dialog and cooperation,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters in Brussels on Monday, July 13 after chairing a meeting with national counterparts from the 27-member bloc.

“There was a broad support to call on the Turkish authorities to urgently reconsider and reverse this decision.”

The gathering, the first in-person meeting of EU foreign ministers since the coronavirus-induced lockdown, focused largely on Turkey amid bloc-wide concerns about its greater regional assertiveness. Borrell’s press conference took place more than two hours after it was originally scheduled.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, meanwhile, hit back and rejected international intervention concerning its decision to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque.

“Hagia Sophia was left as a legacy as a mosque and must be used as a mosque,” Cavusoglu told state broadcaster TRT. “We strongly reject comments that amount to an intervention in Turkey’s sovereign rights.”

Relations between the EU and Turkey have been deteriorating since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded to a failed coup attempt almost four years ago to the day -- July 15, 2016 -- with a widespread crackdown on political opponents.