Ankara condemns statements by Greek officials, burning of Turkish flag
The Turkish Foreign Ministry on July 25 condemned statements by Greek officials and the burning of the Turkish flag in Greece after the first Islamic prayers in nine decades were held at Istanbul's Hagia Sophia.
"Greece showed once again its enmity towards Islam and Turkey with the excuse of reacting to Hagia Sophia Mosque being opened to prayers," ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a written statement.
Church bells tolled in mourning across Greece on July 24 as Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan joined prayers at Hagia Sophia.
In a message marking Greece's 46th anniversary of the restoration of democracy, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos
Mitsotakis called the conversion an "affront to the civilization of the 21st century."
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it strongly condemned hostile statements by the Greek government and parliament
members to stir up the public, and the burning of a Turkish flag in the Greek city of Thessaloniki.
“Greece should, from now on, wake up from the Byzantine dream that she has been unable to wake up for 567 years and get rid of her frustration emanating from it,” Aksoy said.
The Greek oppression against the Muslim Turkish minority in the country are registered by the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, he noted, adding that Greece is the only European country which has no mosque in its capital and that it has condoned the destruction of historical mosques on its territory.
Aksoy highlighted that the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque has opened for worship in line with the will of the Turkish nation.
He added that the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, like other cultural assets on the Turkish lands, belongs to Turkey, and said: "... it will be in our possession and protection forever."
The Hagia Sophia served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of Istanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934- nearly 500 years - and most recently as a museum for 86 years.
One of the most visited historic buildings in Turkey by domestic and international tourists, Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985, during its time as a museum.
On July 10, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque.
Greece condemns burning of Turkish flag in protests
Meanwhile, Greece on July 25 condemned the burning of the Turkish flag during protests in Thessaloniki.
“We categorically condemn any action that desecrates a national symbol of any country, in this case of Turkey,” Greece’s Foreign Ministry said in a tweet.