The Russian State Duma, the lower house of the Federal Assembly, has called on Turkish lawmakers to influence the authorities regarding plans to change the status of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul.
The State Duma is urging for Turkish MPs to take all possible steps to prevent Haghia Sophia’s hasty transformation into a mosque, Russia’s Ria Novosti news agency reported on Tuesday.
“We ask our colleagues, deputies of the Turkish Parliament, to comprehensively analyze the current situation and urge, while deciding on the status of the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul,’’ it cited the draft of the appeal as saying.
The Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, is slated to announce this month a decision on whether to accept President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s request to turn the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, a long-standing demand of Islamists.
Originally built as a Byzantine cathedral in 537, was turned into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul on May 29, 1453, and then became a museum in 1935 under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s presidency.
In the appeal, Russian lawmakers highlight their appreciation for Russian-Turkish relations, which they say are particularly important “in difficult times of growing geopolitical and other hardships complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Hagia Sophia’s museum status makes it possible to open the temple to a large number of people and “show respect for the spiritual heritage and cultural traditions of our ancestors,” the Russian lawmakers said.