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Response from the UK Foreign Office on Hagia Sophia

Thank you for your letter to the Foreign Secretary about Hagia Sofia in Turkey. The Correspondence and Parliamentary Questions Unit in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been asked to reply. 

We have noted President Erdoğan’s decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque. While we note the concern this action has caused internationally, the Government regards this as a sovereign matter for Turkey. We have therefore not discussed the matter with other countries or organisations. 

However, we would expect that Hagia Sophia – part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – remains accessible to all, as testament to its global cultural and religious significance and Turkey’s rich and diverse historical and cultural legacy, and that its precious artefacts are preserved. We therefore welcome the public statements by Turkish leaders that this historic building will continue to be accessible to people of all faiths and nationalities, which would be consistent with the Turkish constitution’s provisions for freedom of conscience and religion for all. 

It is for states party to the World Heritage Convention to ensure that their designated world heritage sites comply with the terms of the Convention. We work closely with UNESCO, its advisory bodies and partner governments to promote the highest standards of heritage protection.

This will ensure designated sites are protected effectively for the whole of humanity, and for future generations. 

Yours sincerely, 

Foreign and Commonwealth Office 

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