Tag Archives: turkey

Turkey swelling illegal drilling in Eastern Mediterranean – Cyprus accuses.

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Ahead of special summit on crisis, Cypriot leader raises alarm as EU chief warns Ankara against intimidating neighbours.

Cyprus has accused Turkey of extending “illegal drilling” in disputed Mediterranean waters but said it is ready to engage in dialogue with Ankara to resolve differences over exploration rights.

On Tuesday, Turkey extended the operations of its Yavuz energy drill ship in the disputed area off Cyprus until October 12, in a move that could stir tension between the island’s Greek Cypriot government and Ankara.

“Yesterday, unfortunately a Turkish NAVTEX to expand illegal drilling by the Yavuz vessel was extended when at the same time, a series of initiatives are ongoing that seek an end to Ankara’s unlawful actions and de-escalation,” President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday, after a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel in Nicosia.

Yavuz will be accompanied by three other Turkish ships, according to a Turkish maritime notice that added “all vessels are strongly advised not to enter” the area, Turkish broadcaster TRT reported.

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Anastasiades’s comments come a week ahead of a special summit of European Union leaders on September 24-25 to discuss how to resolve the crisis between Cyprus and Turkey.

Anastasiades said Turkey was continuing its provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean, adding Cyprus would enter dialogue – but not under threats.

Meanwhile, the European Commission’s president on Wednesday warned Turkey against trying to intimidate Greece and Cyprus.

In her annual State of the EU speech, Ursula von der Leyen said Ankara was a key partner doing important work hosting refugees but stressed “none of this is justification for attempts to intimidate its neighbours”.

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Turkey, Greece and Cyprus have been locked in a dispute over energy resources and maritime borders in the region, with Ankara infuriating the EU countries by sending research ships with naval escorts to work in contested waters.

There have been fears of conflict erupting and Cyprus is pressing the rest of the EU to impose fresh sanctions on Ankara over the drilling, a move Turkey has decried as lacking legal basis.

“Turkey is and will always be an important neighbour, but while we are close together on the map, the distance between us appears to be growing,” Von der Leyen told the European Parliament.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and European Council President Charles Michel bump elbows after the news conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus September 16, 2020 [Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters]

“Yes, Turkey is in a troubled neighbourhood. And yes, it is hosting millions of refugees, for which we support them with considerable funding. But none of this is justification for attempts to intimidate its neighbours.”

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Greece and Cyprus can count on Europe’s “full solidarity on protecting their legitimate sovereignty rights”, she added.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called for European “solidarity” on the issue and a renewed migrant crisis.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said his country has been proposing to restart exploratory talks with Greece.

“Exploratory talks actually cover all disputed issues between Turkey and Greece … The previous government [in Greece] … didn’t want to actually restart. And this government also has not been willing to restart the exploratory talks, so we have to make an agreement,” he said.


#Newsworthy…

East Mediterranean: Greece lauds return of turkish research vessel.

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Greek government calls the departure of the Oruc Reis from disputed waters after weeks of tension ‘a positive step’.

A Turkish seismic survey vessel, whose research in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean has been at the heart of a weeks-long standoff between Ankara and Athens, has returned to waters near southern Turkey – a move Greece said was a positive first step in easing tensions over offshore natural resources.

But Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar played down the significance of the move, saying the ship had returned to shore as part of scheduled plans and insisted it did not mean Ankara was “giving up our rights there”.

“There will be planned movements backwards and forwards,” Akar told state news agency Anadolu in Antalya, southern Turkey, on Sunday.

Neighbours and NATO allies Turkey and Greece have overlapping claims to continental shelves and rights to potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent Oruc Reis to map out possible oil and gas drilling prospects in waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

Turkey’s navy had issued an advisory earlier this month saying the vessel would continue operations in the area until September 12. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had said it would continue exploratory operations for longer but no extension to the advisory was issued as of noon.

Refinitiv ship tracking data showed Oruc Reis, along with two accompanying naval vessels, returned to a location just off the coast of Antalya.

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The move was welcomed by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday.

“The return of Oruc Reis is a positive first step, I hope there will be continuity. We want to talk with Turkey but in a climate without provocations,” he told reporters in Thessaloniki.

Ankara faces potential sanctions from the European Union, which fully supports member states Greece and Cyprus, over the dispute. But many states, including Germany, want to defuse the stand-off through dialogue.

“A sanctions list exists as an option [against Turkey]. Our desire is not to see it implemented but it will be done if we see that the other side is not returning to the path of logic,” Mitsotakis said.

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The dispute over potential oil and gas reserves triggered a military build-up in the eastern Mediterranean, with Turkey and Greece both dispatching warships to the area and conducting military exercises to assert their claims.

The Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis [File:Turkish Ministry of Energy/Handout via Reuters]

Turkey has repeatedly said it is open to solving issues with Greece through dialogue but publicly rejected any conditions, including Oruc Reis halting operations, before negotiations.

“If there are those who set preconditions for Turkey, we have preconditions too and these preconditions need to be met,” Cavusoglu said during a news conference on Saturday, without elaborating.

Earlier in September, Mitsotakis said his country would only start talks with Turkey to resolve conflicting claims once Turkish “provocations” ceased.

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Turkey rejects EU criticism and says the bloc should remain impartial in the dispute, arguing the waters where exploratory natural gas drilling was being conducted were part of its Turkish continental shelf.

Turkey says it has a legitimate claim over the area in the eastern Mediterranean. There is no agreement between Greece and Turkey delimiting their continental shelves, while Turkey disputes any claims by Cyprus, with which it has no diplomatic relations.

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Its internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government represents the whole island in the European Union, though its authority is effectively contained to the southern part. North Cyprus is an unrecognised Turkish Cypriot state recognised only by Ankara.

James Ker-Lindsay, a professor at the London School of Economics, said at the heart of the dispute is a 1924 maritime accord agreement between Turkey and Greece that is now outdated. He said Turkey is claiming one tiny Greek island is cutting off its access to vast gas resources.

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“It’s an incredibly complex problem. A hundred years ago the two sorted out their borders but times have changed. International law was in a very different place, you couldn’t explore deep waters. But with technology we’ve now been able to,” he told Media known to Noble Reporters Media.

Amid the tension, Mitsotakis on Saturday announced a “robust” arms purchase programme and an overhaul of the country’s military.

In a keynote address in Thessaloniki, he said Greece would acquire 18 French-made Rafale warplanes, four multipurpose frigates, and four navy helicopters, while also recruiting 15,000 new troops and pouring resources into the national arms industry and cyberattack defence. New anti-tank weapons, navy torpedoes and air force missiles will also be secured, he added.

Mitsotakis is believed to have hammered out the programme after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a southern European leaders summit in Corsica this week. France has strongly backed Greece in its burgeoning showdown with Turkey, as well as Cyprus.

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Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday took aim at Macron following French criticism of Turkish maritime activities in the eastern Mediterranean, as tensions between the NATO allies continue to escalate.

“You will have many more problems with me,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Istanbul. “Don’t mess with the Turkish people. Don’t mess with Turkey.”

Separately on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a diplomatic solution to the dispute between Greece and Turkey, saying continuing military tensions between the NATO allies only serve the alliance’s enemies.

“Increased military tensions help no one but adversaries who would like to see division in transatlantic unity,” Pompeo said after talks in Nicosia with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.


#Newsworthy…

Research machine at East Mediterranean heart moves back near Turkey shore

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Greek government calls the departure of the Oruc Reis from disputed area after weeks of tension ‘a positive step’.

A Turkish seismic survey vessel, whose research in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean has been at the heart of a weeks-long standoff between Ankara and Athens, has returned to waters near the southern Turkish province of Antalya.

Neighbours and NATO allies Turkey and Greece have overlapping claims to continental shelves and rights to potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent Oruc Reis to map out possible oil and gas drilling prospects in waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

Turkey’s navy had issued an advisory earlier this month saying that the vessel would continue operations in the area until September 12. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had said it would continue exploratory operations for longer but no extension to the advisory was issued as of noon on Sunday.

Refinitiv ship tracking data showed Oruc Reis, along with two accompanying vessels, had returned to a location just off the coast of Antalya on Sunday.

The return of the Oruc Reis near Turkey’s southern shore was welcomed by the Greek government.

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“This is a positive step. We will see how this develops to make a proper assessment,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told Skai, a television broadcaster.

Military build-up
The dispute over potential oil and gas reserves triggered a military build-up in the eastern Mediterranean, with Turkey and Greece both dispatching warships to the area and conducting military exercises to assert their claims.

Turkey has repeatedly said it is open to solving issues with Greece through dialogue but had publicly rejected any pre-conditions, including Oruc Reis halting operations, before negotiations.

“If there are those who set pre-conditions for Turkey, we have pre-conditions too and these pre-conditions need to be met,” Cavusoglu said during a news conference on Saturday, withour elaborating.

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Earlier in September, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his country would only start talks with Turkey to resolve conflicting claims once Turkish “provocations” ceased.

Meanwhile, Turkish Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar said on Sunday in Antalya’s district of Kas that Turkey supports peace and dialogue “if our wishes and demands are fulfilled”.

His comments came as Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou visited the Greek island of Kastellorizo, located directly across the Mediterranean from Kas

The European Union, of which Greece is a member, has criticised Ankara for its actions and threatened sanctions as punishment.

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Turkey rejects the criticism and says the bloc should remain impartial in the dispute, arguing that the waters where exploratory natural gas drilling was being conducted were part of its Turkish continental shelf.

Pompeo in Cyprus
Amid the tension, Mitsotakis on Saturday announced a “robust” arms purchase programme and an overhaul of the country’s military.

In a keynote address in Thessaloniki, he said Greece would acquire 18 French-made Rafale warplanes, four multipurpose frigates, and four navy helicopters, while also recruiting 15,000 new troops and pouring resources into the national arms industry and cyberattack defence. New anti-tank weapons, navy torpedoes and air force missiles will also be secured, he added.

The Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis [File:Turkish Ministry of Energy/Handout via Reuters]

Mitsotakis is believed to have hammered out the programme after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron during a southern European leaders summit in Corsica this week. France has strongly backed Greece in its burgeoning showdown with Turkey, as well as Cyprus.

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Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday took aim at Macron following French criticism about Turkish maritime activities in the eastern Mediterranean, as tensions between the NATO allies continue to escalate.

“You will have many more problems with me,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Istanbul. “Don’t mess with the Turkish people. Don’t mess with Turkey.”

Separately on Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a diplomatic solution to the dispute between Greece and Turkey, saying continuing military tensions between the NATO allies only serve the alliance’s enemies.

“Increased military tensions help no one but adversaries who would like to see division in transatlantic unity,” Pompeo said after talks in Nicosia with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.


#Newsworthy…

Turkish forces begin military exercises in Cyprus.

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France, meanwhile, says sanctions against Ankara are on the table during European Council meeting later this month.

Turkey’s armed forces on Sunday began annual exercises in the breakaway republic of Northern Cyprus – an entity recognised only by Ankara – as tensions continue to rise with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s hunt for gas and oil reserves in waters claimed by Greece has put a huge strain on the relationship between the two NATO members.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday raised the stakes by warning Greece: “They will either understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or on the field through bitter experiences.”

As tensions run high, the Turkish military began its exercises called “Mediterranean Storm” with the Turkish Cypriot Security Command, Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter.

“The security priorities of our country and the TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] are indispensable, along with diplomatic solutions in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Oktay said.

The Turkish defence ministry also tweeted the military exercises, which last until Thursday, continued “successfully”.

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Cyprus is divided between the Greek Cypriot-run south – an EU member state – and the Turkish Cypriot north.

Turkey sanctions
Meanwhile, France said Turkey’s escalating conflict with Greece and Cyprus will be the main subject at this month’s European Council meeting, when sanctions will be considered against Ankara.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he and his counterparts in other EU countries had already discussed “the range of reprisals we could take with regards to Turkey”.

Turkey embarked on a military-backed hydrocarbon exploration venture in waters between Greece and Cyprus on August 10, ratcheting up tensions in a strategic corridor of the Eastern Mediterranean.

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Greece responded with naval exercises to defend its maritime territory, which were later bolstered by the deployment of French frigates and fighter jets.

‘Up to the Turks’
The dispute between NATO members has underscored the rising geopolitical risks in the area as Turkey pursues more aggressively nationalist policies under Erdogan.

The European Union’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell has also raised the possibility of sanctions against Ankara, but so far Paris has been unable to persuade other EU nations to join its hardline response.

Le Drian urged Erdogan to begin talks over its Eastern Mediterranean ambitions between now and the European Council meeting.

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“It’s up to the Turks to show that this matter … can be discussed,” he told France Inter radio. “If so, we can create a virtuous circle for all the problems on the table.”

While he declined to specify the type of sanctions Ankara could face, he said there was an “entire series of measures”.

“We are not short of options – and he knows that,” said Le Drian referring to Erdogan.

The European Council meeting is set to meet on September 24-25.


#Newsworthy…

East Mediterranean: Turkish leader, Erdogan threatens Greece.

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Turkish president warns Greece to enter talks over disputed Mediterranean Sea claims or face ‘painful experiences’.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Greece to enter talks over disputed eastern Mediterranean territorial claims or face the consequences.

“They’re either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences,” he said on Saturday at a hospital’s opening ceremony in Istanbul.

The two NATO allies have been locked for weeks in a tense standoff in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey is prospecting the seabed for energy reserves in an area Greece claims as its own continental shelf.

Cyprus has also accused Turkey of breaching its sovereignty by drilling in their waters. All sides have deployed naval and air forces to assert their competing claims in the region.

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“They are going to understand that Turkey has the political, economic and military power to tear up the immoral maps and documents imposed,” Erdogan added, referring to areas marked by Greece and Cyprus as their economic maritime zones.

He said Turkey was “ready for every eventuality and result”.

NATO said this week Greek and Turkish leaders had agreed to take part in technical talks to avoid accidents between their navies.

But Greece later said it had not agreed to the talks, leading to accusations from Turkey that the European Union country was shunning dialogue.

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Tanks to the border?
On Saturday, a Turkish news report said Ankara redeployed armoured personnel carriers from the Syrian border to the one it shares with Greece.

The Cumhuriyet newspaper said 40 tanks were being transported from the Syrian border to Edirne in northwest Turkey and carried photographs of armoured vehicles loaded on trucks.

A military official speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations said the deployment was a regular movement of forces and unconnected to tension with Greece.

Reporting from Istanbul, Noble Reporters Media said officials have only said, “This is within the planned activity, the responsibility of the second army, [which is] responsible for the areas of Syria, Iraq and Iran.”

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If the convoy is indeed heading to the border with Greece, then it is a part of the “diplomatic military arm wrestling in what is a tense situation between the two countries”, Dekker said.

“We just heard from Turkey’s president that … they won’t hesitate even going to a full-on military confrontation when it comes to defending what they say are their legitimate rights.”

Reporting from Athens, Noble Reporters Media said he does not believe the Greeks are concerned about the narrow land border they share with Turkey, as they have 1,300 tanks in their arsenal, most of which are “parked right there in the 130-kilometre-long stretch”.

“There is overwhelming armour opposite the Turkish border and that’s the only part of the Greek-Turkish theatre that the Greeks feel confident about,” Psaropoulos said.

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“What they’re less confident about is the vast swath of the Aegean sea and now eastern Mediterranean sea.”

He added after eight years of recession and austerity measures imposed by its eurozone partners, Greece has cut its defence budget by about half, now amounting to roughly 3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

“The Greeks have traditionally spent very highly on defence. They are now unable to keep up with Turkey, which has almost triple the defence budget of Greece,” Psaropoulos said.

Practicing dogfights
Turkey on August 10 deployed the Oruc Reis research vessel and an escorting flotilla of warships to the waters between Cyprus and the Greek islands of Kastellorizo and Crete. The vessel’s stay in the contested waters has been extended three times.

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Greece responded by staging naval exercises with several EU allies and the United Arab Emirates, not far from smaller manoeuvres Turkey conducted between Cyprus and Crete last week.

Ankara said it has every right to prospect the region and accuses Athens of trying to grab an unfair share of maritime resources.

Simulated dogfights between Greek and Turkish fighter pilots have multiplied over the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean.

A Turkish and a Greek frigate collided last month, reportedly causing minor damage to the Turkish frigate but no injuries.

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Erdogan said Turkey has repeatedly expressed its willingness to come to a just agreement.

“Our word is sincere,” he said. “The problem is those before us disregard our rights and try to situate themselves above us.”

The crisis is the most serious in the two countries’ relations in decades. The neighbours have come to the brink of war three times since the mid-1970s, including once over maritime resources in the Aegean.

Earlier, Ankara announced joint military exercises with northern Cypriot forces from Sunday to September 10. The air, land, and sea drills are held every year.


#Newsworthy…

Leaders of Greece, Turkey trades insult over East Mediterranean talks.

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Greek PM says cites Ankara’s ‘provocations’ as Turkish FM accuses Athens of lying over intentions to enter dialogue.

Tensions between Greece and Turkey over maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean have been reignited as political leaders of both countries traded insults amid efforts by NATO to foster dialogue.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday his country would only start talks with Turkey to resolve conflicting claims once Turkish “provocations” ceased.

The war of words escalated last month after Turkey dispatched a seismic survey vessel to a disputed area for energy exploration following a maritime deal between Greece and Egypt. Turkey says the pact infringes on its own continental shelf.

“[Our country] can and wants to discuss the demarcation of maritime zones in the Aegean Sea, in the Eastern Mediterranean, based on international law. But not under threats,” Mitsotakis said during a meeting with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi, who is visiting Athens.

Mitsotakis made the remarks during a meeting with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi [Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool via Reuters]

“Once the provocations end, discussions will begin,” he said, adding that Greece’s foreign minister would deliver a letter from him outlining Athens’ case to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when the two meet in New York on Friday.

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Also on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Greece and Turkey, both members of the Western alliance, had begun technical talks, but they had yet to agree on a deal to avoid accidental clashes in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, Turkey on Friday accused Greece of shunning the dialogue and lying by denying it had signed up to NATO-brokered talks.

A Greek frigate collided with a Turkish one in August and the two NATO members staged rival war games in the energy-rich but disputed region last week.

Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in the Mediterranean Sea [Handout/Reuters]

Stoltenberg has said Greek and Turkish leaders “agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military deconfliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents”.

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But Greece said later on Thursday that Athens never agreed to the technical talks, claiming Stoltenberg’s statement did not “correspond to reality”.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Greece did, in fact, agree to the proposal when it was made.

“Greece denied the secretary general’s (remarks) but the one lying here is not the NATO secretary general, it’s Greece itself,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.

“Greece showed once more than it’s not in favour of dialogue.”


#Newsworthy…

Turkey, Greece to meet over Mediterranean tension.

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Tensions running high over Turkey’s drilling activities, which Greece and Cyprus say violate their sovereignty.


Greece and Turkey are set to hold talks at NATO aimed at preventing clashes in the eastern Mediterranean, where they are at odds over maritime borders and gas exploration rights.

Tensions are running high over Turkey’s drilling activities, which Greece and Cyprus say violate their sovereignty, and both sides have deployed warships in a show of force, raising fears of conflict erupting by accident.

The two NATO allies have now agreed to get together to discuss ways to avoid an armed confrontation, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

“Following my discussions with Greek and Turkish leaders, the two allies have agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military de-confliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the eastern Mediterranean,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“Greece and Turkey are valued allies, and NATO is an important platform for consultations on all issues that affect our shared security.”

With the talks set to be of a technical military nature, they are unlikely to bring a complete solution to the complex, long-running rivalry between Greece and Turkey.

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But observers hope they will at least offer an opening for further dialogue.

The decision to hold talks comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the two sides to reduce tensions and open diplomatic channels to ease the crisis.

Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in the Mediterranean sea [File: Greek Ministry of Defence Handout/Reuters]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan struck a defiant tone this week, extending the gas exploration mission and saying Ankara would not be intimidated by Greece’s support from European military powers such as France.

Large reserves of natural gas are believed to be located in the eastern Mediterranean, which Turkey is exploring in maritime areas claimed by Cyprus or Greece.

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Ankara sent out drillships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying it and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have hydrocarbon exploration rights in the region.

Greece has disputed Turkey’s current energy activities in the eastern Mediterranean, trying to box in Turkish maritime territory based on small Greek islands near the Turkish coast.

The European Union has been watching the escalating dispute with growing concern, with Germany spearheading efforts to get the sides to temper the rhetoric and settle their differences through talks.

The EU has repeatedly urged Turkey to stop its exploration activities and threatened to slap sanctions on Ankara if it refused to solve the dispute through dialogue.


#Newsworthy…


Turkey: East Mediterranean gas exploration stressed.

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Turkish navy’s advisory says the Oruc Reis will continue working until September 12, a move Greece calls ‘illegal’.


Turkey says its Oruc Reis exploration vessel will carry out seismic surveys in a disputed area of the eastern Mediterranean until September 12, provoking an angry response from neighbouring Greece.

The two NATO allies vehemently disagree over claims to hydrocarbon resources in the area based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves in waters dotted with mostly Greek islands.

Both sides have held military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, highlighting the potential for the dispute to escalate.

The Turkish navy announced the extension of the Oruc Reis’s mission late on Monday – it was previously scheduled to end on September 1.

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The advisory came after the European Union’s executive earlier on Monday called for dialogue with Turkey and demanded that Ankara refrain from unilateral steps that stoke tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece’s foreign ministry called the advisory illegal and urged Turkey to ease tensions and work for stability in the region.

“Turkey continues to ignore calls for dialogue and to escalate its provocations,” the ministry said in a statement. “Greece won’t be blackmailed.”

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Greece will keep seeking maritime deals with its neighbours in the region, based on international law and the law of the Sea, the ministry added.

Last week, Greece ratified an accord on maritime boundaries with Egypt, following a similar agreement signed between Turkey and Libya.

Turkey’s latest advisory referred to a specific exploration area. On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Oruc Reis would continue working for the next 90 days as it moved gradually closer to the Turkish province of Antalya.

Seismic surveys are part of preparatory work for potential hydrocarbon exploration.

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Turkey has also been exploring for hydrocarbon resources in the Black Sea and discovered a 320-billion cubic metre (11.3 trillion cubic feet) gas field.

Separately, Turkey also said it will hold a military exercise off northwest Cyprus until September 11.

Turkey and Greece have held military exercises in the east Mediterranean, highlighting the potential for dispute over extent of their continental shelves to escalate [Greek Defence Ministry/AP]

Last week, the EU said it was preparing to impose sanctions on Turkey – including tough economic measures – unless progress is made in reducing soaring tensions with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay slammed the EU threat as “hypocritical”.


#Newsworthy…

Congo opposition leader, Mokoko returns from Brazzaville

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Congo’s opposition leader Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko returned to Brazzaville on Sunday after a month’s medical attention in Turkey.

The 73-year-old general, who ran against President Denis Sassou Nguesso in the 2016 polls, was imprisoned for 20 years in 2019 on charges for compromising national security and unlawful possession of arms and ammunition.

On July 2, Mokoko was first admitted to a military hospital in Congo due to overall fatigue and loss of appetite. The authorities then allowed him to fly to Ankara on July 30, following weeks of negotiations. A prison source said he would be returned to his cell after being checked by doctors.

Prosecutors had accused Mokoko and several co-defendants of amassing arms as far back as 2005 in the aim of overthrowing Sassou Nguesso’s government. He was arrested later in June 2016 and subsequently tried.

For many of Mokoko’s supporters and observers, the prosecution was an attempt by Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled the central African nation for all but five of the past 38 years, to use the courts to stifle dissent.


#Newsworthy…

Turkey, Greece Tensions Call For Dialogue | Video

Watch video here – Germany – Noble Reporters tv

Turkey blasts European Union on warning over East Mediterranean.

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Turkish VP refutes EU threat for sanctions as Turkish military gets ready to carry out military exercises off Cyprus.


Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay has slammed a recent threat by the European Union to slap Ankara with sanctions as “hypocritical” as his country prepares to carry out a military drill off the coast of Cyprus amid tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

Oktay’s comments on Saturday came a day after Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said the bloc was preparing to impose sanctions on Turkey – including tough economic measures – unless progress is made in reducing soaring tensions with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

“It is hypocritical for the European Union to call for dialogue and, simultaneously, make other plans regarding Turkey’s activities within our continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Oktay said on Twitter.

“We are proficient in the language of peace and diplomacy, but do not hesitate to do the necessary thing when it comes to defending Turkey’s rights and interests. France and Greece know that better than anyone.”

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The long-running dispute between Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, flared after both agreed to rival accords on their maritime boundaries with Libya and Egypt, and Turkey sent a survey vessel into contested waters this month.

The EU’s measures, meant to limit Turkey’s ability to explore for natural gas in contested waters, could include individuals, ships or the use of European ports, Borrell said.

“We can go to measures related to sectoral activities … where the Turkish economy is related to the European economy,” Borrell told a news conference, referring to possible sanctions.

The EU would focus on everything related to “activities we consider illegal”, he said.

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Military exercise
On Friday, Turkey said it will hold military drills off northwest Cyprus in the next two weeks.

The Turkish military issued an advisory to mariners, known as a Navtex, saying it would be holding a “gunnery exercise” from Saturday until September 11.

Tensions escalated this month after Ankara dispatched the Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel in a disputed area following the pact between Athens and Cairo [Yoruk Isik/Reuters]

Greece and Turkey have both held military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, highlighting the potential for the dispute over the extent of their continental shelves to escalate into a confrontation.

Two weeks ago, Greek and Turkish frigates shadowing Turkey’s Oruc Reis oil and gas survey vessel collided, and Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense said Turkish F-16 jets on Thursday prevented six Greek F-16s from entering an area where Turkey was operating.

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Greece and Turkey are at odds over the rights to potential hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean, based on conflicting claims about the extent of their continental shelves.

Tensions escalated this month after Ankara dispatched the Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel in a disputed area following the pact between Athens and Cairo.

The agreement is seen as a response to a Turkish-Libyan accord signed in 2019 allowing Turkey access to areas in the region where large hydrocarbon deposits have been discovered.

Turkey is a formal candidate to join the EU, but its talks with the bloc have been in a deadlock for several years now.


#Newsworthy…

Turkey has resumed drilling in east Mediterranean – Erdogan says

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NATO members Turkey and Greece have long been at loggerheads over overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources.


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that Turkey has resumed energy exploration work in the eastern Mediterranean, saying Greece had not kept its promises regarding such activities in the region.

NATO members Turkey and Greece have long been at loggerheads over overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources and tensions flared up last month, prompting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to hold talks with the country’s leaders to ease tensions.

“We have started drilling work again,” Erdogan told reporters after participating in Friday prayers at the Hagia Sophia mosque. “We don’t feel obliged to talk with those who do not have rights in maritime jurisdiction zones.”

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He said Turkey’s Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa, a seismic survey vessel, had been sent to the region to carry out its duties. The ship moved into waters off Cyprus in late July and remains in that region.

Erdogan made the comments when asked about an accord signed by Egypt and Greece on Thursday designating an exclusive economic zone between the two nations in the eastern Mediterranean.

Diplomats in Greece said their agreement nullified an accord reached last year between Turkey and the internationally recognised government of Libya.

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Erdogan, however, dismissed the Egypt-Greece deal, saying Turkey would sustain its agreement with Libya “decisively”.

Turkey says a recent agreement between Greece and Egypt cuts through its continental shelf [File: Murad Sezer/Reuters]

Commenting on the agreement, Turkey’s foreign ministry said the zone included in the Greco-Egyptian deal falls under the area of Turkey’s continental shelf.

Ankara has maintained that sea boundaries for commercial exploitation should be divided between the Greek and Turkish mainlands and not include the Greek islands on an equal basis.

Athens contends that Turkey’s position is a violation of international law.


#Newsworthy..

Breaking: Turkey warns Egypt over Libya invasion

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At Istanbul meeting, Russia and Turkey agree to push for a ceasefire but Ankara says eastern commander must retreat.


Turkey and Russia agreed on Wednesday to press for a ceasefire in war-ravaged Libya, but Ankara said the leader of the eastern forces was illegitimate and must withdraw from key positions for a credible truce to take hold.

Moscow and Ankara are among the main power brokers in Libya’s conflict while supporting opposing sides. Russia backs the eastern-based forces of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, while Turkey has helped the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) repel Haftar’s attempt to storm the capital.

“We’ve just reached an agreement with Russia to work on a credible and sustainable ceasefire in Libya,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top security adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, told Reuters news agency.

Kalin said any deal must be based on a return to what he said were the Libyan front lines in 2015, requiring Haftar’s forces to pull back from the strategic city of Sirte – gateway to Libya’s eastern oilfields – and al-Jufra, an airbase near the centre of the country.

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“For the ceasefire to be sustainable, Jufra and Sirte should be evacuated by Haftar’s forces,” Kalin said.

Battle for Sirte
Turkish-backed forces allied with the UN-recognised government in the capital are mobilising on the edges of Sirte and have vowed to retake the Mediterranean city along with the inland al-Jufra airbase.

Troops loyal to Libya’s internationally recognised government on the outskirts of Misrata, Libya [Ayman Sahely/Reuters]

The United States has said Moscow sent warplanes to al-Jufra via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). Russia and the LNA both deny this.

Egypt, which also backs the LNA, has threatened to send troops into neighbouring Libya if the GNA and Turkish forces try to seize Sirte. The Egyptian parliament on Sunday gave a green light for possible military intervention.

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Kalin said any Egyptian deployment in Libya would hamper efforts to end the fighting and would be risky for Cairo. “I believe it will be a dangerous military adventure for Egypt.”

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry said on Wednesday achieving a political solution in Libya requires a “firm” response to “extremists” and foreign interference, which “not only threaten Egypt’s interests but also the security of Mediterranean countries”.

He noted a peace proposal announced in Cairo last month aimed at stabilising Libya and eliminating armed fighters and militias in the oil-rich country.

The proposal announced by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi included a ceasefire and a new elected presidential body representing the three Libyan regions. The east Libya camp accepted the proposal, dubbed the Cairo Declaration, while the Tripoli-based administration rejected it.

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Wednesday’s joint agreement by Turkey and Russia on their ceasefire efforts included a call for measures to allow humanitarian access to those in need and efforts to promote political dialogue between the rival Libya sides.

But Kalin said Haftar had violated previous truce deals and was not a reliable partner, suggesting other figures in the east should play a role.

“We don’t take [Haftar] as a legitimate actor anyway,” he said. “But there is another parliament in Tobruk. There are other players in Benghazi. The negotiations will have to take place between them.”

The LNA has itself sent fighters and weapons to bolster its defence of Sirte, already badly battered from earlier phases of warfare and chaos since the 2011 revolution against longtime autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.

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Russia’s foreign ministry said it backs a ceasefire and political talks that would culminate in united governing authorities. Russia has received senior delegations from both sides of the Libyan conflict in Moscow and tried and failed to get Haftar to sign up to a ceasefire agreement.

‘All kinds of bullying’
Shukry’s comments came in separate phone calls with France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, according to a statement from Egypt’s foreign ministry.

Erdogan, meanwhile, chaired a high-level security meeting that focused on Libya on Wednesday.

A statement released at the end of the National Security Council meeting said Turkey would not hesitate to take all steps necessary against “all kinds of bullying” taking place in Libya.

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The council promised to “stand by the people of Libya against any tyranny”.

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and other foreign powers have provided Haftar’s forces with critical military assistance.

Russia also sent hundreds of mercenaries through the Wagner Group, a private military company.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled Gaddafi who was later killed.


#Newsworthy…

Hagia Sophia Museum: Turkish leader, Erdogan visit after turning to Mosque

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Some 500 worshippers are set to attend Muslim prayers at UNESCO World Heritage site on Friday.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has paid a surprise visit to Hagia Sophia just days before the first Muslim prayers are due to be held at the Istanbul landmark since it was reconverted to a mosque last week.

In a quick visit billed as an inspection, Erdogan took stock of the conversion work, the president’s office said on Sunday, providing pictures showing scaffolding inside the building.

Turkey tries journalists accused of revealing
The Diyanet, the country’s religious authority, said Christian icons would be curtained off and unlit “through appropriate means during prayer times”.

It was unclear whether Erdogan planned to be among some 500 worshippers set to attend Friday prayers.

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Turkey’s top court paved the way for the conversion in a decision to revoke the edifice’s museum status conferred nearly a century ago.

The sixth-century building had been open to all visitors, regardless of their faith, since its inauguration as a museum in 1935.

Erdogan says decision to change the status of Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque represents his country’s will to use its ‘sovereign rights’ [Turkish presidency/AFP]

Earlier this week, the Diyanet said the building would continue to be open to all visitors outside the hours given over to prayer.

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The UNESCO World Heritage site was built as a cathedral during the Byzantine empire but converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

It was designated a museum in a key reform of the post-Ottoman authorities under the modern republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Erdogan had long called for Hagia Sophia to be reconverted into a mosque [Turkish presidency/AFP]
Erdogan said last year it had been a "very big mistake" to convert the Hagia Sophia into a museum.

The reconversion sparked anger among Christians and tensions between historic foes and uneasy NATO allies Turkey and Greece.


#Newsworthy…

Reactions from ‘Globe’ as turkey reconvert Museum into Mosque

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UNESCO, Greece, Cyprus and church leaders among others express concern about changing status of the sixth-century site.


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia open to Muslim worship on Friday after a top court ruled the building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman was illegal.

Erdogan made his announcement, just an hour after the court ruling was revealed, despite international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument, revered by Christians and Muslims alike.

“The decision was taken to hand over the management of the Ayasofya Mosque … to the Religious Affairs Directorate and open it for worship,” the decision signed by Erdogan said.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site in Istanbul, a magnet for tourists worldwide, was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Awaiting of decision for Hagia Sophia trialThe court decision was followed quickly by Erdogan saying that the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Istanbul would be reopened for Muslim worship.

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The Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, unanimously cancelled a 1934 cabinet decision and said Hagia Sophia was registered as a mosque in its property deeds.

The United States, Greece and church leaders were among those to express concern about changing the status of the huge sixth-century building, converted into a museum in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Below is a round-up of international reaction to Friday's decisions.

Church leaders
The Russian Orthodox Church expressed dismay at Turkey’s decision to revoke the museum status of Hagia Sophia, accusing it of ignoring voices of millions of Christians.

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“The concern of millions of Christians has not been heard,” Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida said in comments carried by the Russian news agency Interfax.

“Today’s court ruling shows that all calls for the need for extreme delicacy in this matter were ignored,” Legoida said.

The Russian Orthodox Church previously urged caution over calls to alter the status of the historic former cathedral, and Russian Patriarch Kirill said he was “deeply concerned” about such a potential move and called it a “threat to the whole of Christian civilisation”.

Previously, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and based in Istanbul, said converting it into a mosque would disappoint Christians and would “fracture” East and West.

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UNESCO
UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would review Hagia Sophia’s status, saying it was “regrettable that the Turkish decision was not the subject of dialog nor notification beforehand”.

The Hagia Sophia is a landmark of Istanbul, once serving as Christian cathedral, later as a mosque, then as a museum [Reuters]

“UNESCO calls on the Turkish authorities to open a dialog without delay in order to avoid a step back from the universal value of this exceptional heritage whose preservation will be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in its next session,” the United Nation’s cultural body said in a statement.

The European Union
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called the decision “regrettable”.

“The ruling by the Turkish Council of State to overturn one of modern Turkey’s landmark decisions and President Erdogan’s decision to place the monument under the management of the Religious Affairs Presidency is regrettable,” he said in a statement.

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Cyprus
Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, a Greek Cypriot, posted on his official Twitter account that Cyprus “strongly condemns Turkey’s actions on Hagia Sophia in its effort to distract domestic opinion and calls on Turkey to respect its international obligations”.

United States of America
“We are disappointed by the decision by the government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia,” Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokesperson, said in a statement.

“We understand the Turkish Government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all.”

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Greece
Greece branded Turkey’s move an “open provocation to the civilised world”.

“The nationalism displayed by Erdogan … takes his country back six centuries,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a statement.

Mendoni further said the court ruling “absolutely confirms that there is no independent justice” in Turkey.

Russia
Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy head of the foreign affairs committee in the Russian upper house of parliament, called the action “a mistake”.

“Turning it into a mosque will not do anything for the Muslim world. It does not bring nations together, but on the contrary brings them into collision,” he said.


#Newsworthy…

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Turkey turns her 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia museum into Mosque

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President Erdogan declares iconic cultural site reopen to Muslim worship after a court ruling.


Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia open to Muslim worship after a top court ruled that the building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman was illegal.

Erdogan made the announcement on Friday an hour after the court ruling was revealed, despite international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument, revered by Christians and Muslims alike.

“The decision was taken to hand over the management of the Ayasofya Mosque … to the Religious Affairs Directorate and open it for worship,” the decision signed by Erdogan said.

Erdogan had previously proposed restoring the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a focal point of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of the most visited monuments in Turkey.

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Earlier, a top Turkish court revoked the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum. The Council of State, which was debating a case brought by a Turkish religious organisation, cancelled a 1934 cabinet decision that defined the sixth-century building as a museum.

“It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally,” Turkey’s top administrative court said in the ruling.

The 1,500-year-old monument is revered by Christians and Muslims alike [Anadolu]

“The cabinet decision in 1934 that ended its use as a mosque and defined it as a museum did not comply with laws,” it said.

Erdogan shared on his Twitter feed a copy of the decree he had signed which said the decision had been taken to hand control of the Ayasofya Mosque, as it is known in Turkish, to the country’s religious directorate and reopen it for worship.

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Reporting from Istanbul, Noble Reporters Media learnt the decree was not a surprise as Erdogan had previously stated that he would like to see Hagia Sophia open for Muslim prayers on July 15, the anniversary of a failed coup attempt.

Koseoglu said that in four hours Erdogan was expected to make a speech on the importance of the Hagia Sophia, and its status being altered to a mosque again.

“There are dozens of people in front of Hagia Sophia museum. As soon as the court decision was announced … they have been here chanting, they have been celebrating since then, and we spoke to them, they are very impatient to be able to pray inside Hagia Sophia,” Koseoglu said.

International concerns
Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

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In 1935, in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it became a museum.

The organisation which brought the court case, the latest in a 16-year legal battle, said the Hagia Sophia was the property of the Ottoman leader who captured the city in 1453 and turned the already 900-year-old Byzantine church into a mosque.

Erdogan threw his weight behind the campaign to convert the building before local elections last year. He is due to speak shortly before 9pm (1800 GMT), his head of communications said.

In response to the ruling, the Russian Orthodox Church on Friday said the decision could lead to even greater divisions.

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The United States, Russia and Greece, along with UNESCO, had expressed concerns ahead of the ruling.

UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would review Hagia Sophia’s status, saying it was “regrettable that the Turkish decision was not the subject of dialog nor notification beforehand”.

“UNESCO calls on the Turkish authorities to open a dialog without delay in order to avoid a step back from the universal value of this exceptional heritage whose preservation will be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in its next session,” the United Nation’s cultural body said in a statement.

Erdogan earlier this month rejected international criticism as an attack on Turkey’s sovereignty.


#Newsworthy…

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