Turkey and Greece are in a war of words over the conversion of Istanbul’s Church of Hagia Sophia, to now the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.
This comes on the heels of Islamic prayers held at the ancient site for the first time in 90 years.
Built in 537 as the patriarchal cathedral of the imperial capital of Constantinople, it was the largest church of the eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire), except during the Latin Empire from 1204 to 1261, when it became the Roman Catholic cathedral.
In 1453, after the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire, it was converted into a mosque.
In 1935, the secular Turkish Republic established it as a museum.
It was recently declared re-opened as a mosque by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Both countries have had an uneasy relationship lately, but it has heightened over Ankara’s recent action.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a report said what was happening in Istanbul was “not a show of force, but proof of weakness”.
He also charged that Turkey is a “troublemaker” and viewed the conversion of the church of Hagia Sophia as an “affront to civilization of the 21st century.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s leader Erdogan in his salvo said, “We see that the targets of those countries who have made so much noise in recent days are not Hagia Sophia or the eastern Mediterranean.”
He argued that “[their targets] are the presence itself of the Turkish nation and Muslims in this region.”
He also condemned hostile statements by the Greek government and Parliament members and Turkish flag-burning in the Greek city of Thessaloniki.
Yvad Billings, Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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