ATHENS — President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou on Thursday reached out to the 14 largely non-executive presidents of EU member-states that are members of the Arraiolos Group, asking them to raise their voice to condemn the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
In a letter, Sakellaropoulou referred to the common European identity, common values and their common vision for the future of Europe and said that Hagia Sophia was a landmark monument and an inseparable part of the common European heritage.
"It constitutes a unique combination of art and faith and, as such, has been listed as a World Heritage Monument by UNESCO," the Greek president said, noting that Hagia Sophia was protected by the Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted by UNESCO member-states in 1972.
She noted that Article 4 of the Convention calls on each state party to the Convention to recognise that it has a duty to ensure the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage situated on its territory, while article 6 calls on them to recognise that such heritage constitutes a world heritage for whose protection it is the duty of the international community as a whole to co-operate.
Sakellaropoulou underlined that the Turkish leadership, instead of preserving Hagia Sophia as a symbol of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and dialogue between different cultures and religions, was converting it into a symbol of conquest, bigotry, exclusion and distrust.
"It is our duty to raise our voice and condemn the Turkish decision. We cannot stop calling upon Turkey to revise and revoke this decision, respecting the exceptional global value of this unique architectural masterpiece," the president said.
The letter was sent to Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, Bulgaria's Rumen Radev, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, Irish President Michael D. Higgins, Italy's President Sergio Mattarella, Croatian President Zoran Milanovic, Latvian President Egils Levits, Maltese President George Vella, Hungary's President Janos Ader, Poland's Andrzej Duda, Portugal's Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Slovenian President Borut Pahor and Finland's President Sauli Väinämö Niinistö.