ATHENS -- During joint statements with the President of the Cyprus Republic Nicos Anastasiades, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday said that Ankara's behavior on the issue of Hagia Sophia was "outside the frame and international law", while noting that "it is directed against Europe".
"Turkey's provocations, which are many, are not just directed at our two countries, Greece and Cyprus, but also at Europe," he said, while noting that this behavior came from a country that was formally a candidate for EU membership. "The issue needs a European response," he said.
After stressing that "monuments are not humiliated but humiliate those who do not respect them," Mitsotakis declared his determination that "the questioning of our sovereign rights means that we are ready for more dynamic reactions."
"Turkey claims the role of local troublemaker and threatens stability throughout the region," he said, adding that "Greece and Cyprus have never rejected dialogue in good faith based on the principles of international law, respect for human rights and good neighborly relations."
The prime minister also spoke of the Turkish president's "unprecedented decision on Hagia Sophia, which hurts us as Orthodox Christians but also as citizens of the world."
"Hagia Sophia has followed an ecumenical course. It was Orthodox, Catholic and a mosque, and eventually became a world monument, something that does not change. Hagia Sophia surpasses us all. We will see if it continues to remain a UNESCO monument."
Anastasiades, on his part, also spoke about the violation of international law by Turkey on the issue of Hagia Sophia and noted: "We seek dialogue for peace and stability in the region. We do not provoke, but we are provoked. Not Greece and Cyprus, but Europe."
The Cypriot president confirmed the "excellent coordination of the two governments" and spoke of the "joint determination to face the aggression of the Turks, not through a corresponding challenge but through dialogue, through a European intervention with substance, which will lead to peace and respect for international law."
"The conclusions from the talks are common. We will not allow Turkey's intentions to prevail, nor succumb to the provocation to create an unnecessary crisis. We will look to see how the EU can be more effectively activated, we will invoke the sensitivities of our European partners, not only to violations of international law and European values, but also to what no one expected a secular state to do: the transformation of Hagia Sophia into mosque," he stressed.
Hagia Sophia belongs to the Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants around the world who respect cultural heritage, he said. "It is an acquisition, a cultural heritage, which does not discriminate based on religious identity, but was a symbol of a masterpiece of the 6th century. We will work together, having with us civilized people, both politicians and citizens, everywhere, to send the message that it is inconceivable in the modern era to so brazenly despise cultural heritage," Anastasiades concluded.