Russian Foreign Ministry: Hagia Sophia status 'Turkey's internal affair'

Russian Foreign Ministry: Hagia Sophia status 'Turkey's internal affair'

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said that changing the status of the iconic Hagia Sophia to a mosque was Turkey's internal affair.

Russia is of the view that no one should interfere in the decision, he said in an interview with Sputnik radio.

"We assume that we are talking about Turkey's internal affairs, in which, of course, neither we nor others should interfere. At the same time we pay attention to its significance as an object of world culture and civilization," he said.

On Friday, a top Turkish court annulled a 1934 cabinet decree, which had turned Istanbul's Hagia Sophia into a museum. This verdict by the country's Council of State paved the way for its use again as a mosque after 85 years, Anadolu Agency recalls.

It ruled that the architectural gem had been owned by a foundation established by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Istanbul, and presented to the community as a mosque - a status that cannot be legally changed.

The Hagia Sophia was used as a church for centuries under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. It was turned into a mosque following the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. In 1935, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the historical complex will be ready for worship for Friday prayers on July 24.