The Greek media has cited sources from UNESCO that changing the status of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, a World Heritage Site, cannot be done by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and requires the approval of the Paris-based organization.
The Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Wednesday that such a change in the world heritage-listed buildings operation would require approval by UNESCO.
Completed as the cathedral of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 6th century, the Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque, following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. It has been a museum since 1935.
Erdogan suggested on Tuesday returning Hagia Sophia into a mosque, a long-standing demand by Turkey’s Islamists. The Turkish President made a similar suggestion, during a joint broadcast by TRT Haber and Beyaz TV on Sunday, triggering a reaction from Athens, Kathimerini said.
Erdogan’s statements, made during an election campaign, showed an intent to make the Hagia Sophia an operational mosque following the local elections on Sunday, March 31.
Greece has repeatedly expressed concern over efforts to change the museum’s status.