“The reaction of UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay to the false statements by the Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism last week expresses the real concern and interest of the Organization for Hagia Sophia’s change in status”, said Culture Minister Lina Mendoni. When asked about the issue by journalists, she added “Of course, “we will have to wait for the results of the report by inspectors examining the change in status of Hagia Sofia and the Monastery of Chora, from museums to mosques.”

Ms Azoulay has already made three announcements since the issue of Hagia Sophia’s status change was raised. The most recent posted on the UNESCO website reads as follows:

“In response to the many inaccurate statements and errors circulating in the press about the change of Hagia Sophia, UNESCO wishes to remind the following: UNESCO has reacted to the change in status of Hagia Sophia since July 2020 and has expressed its concern in this matter. This position has remained unaltered since then.

“UNESCO immediately went ahead with an in situ inspection from October 5-9 led by a prominent cultural heritage expert. The mission aims to examine in detail possible effects resulting from this status change and their impact on Hagia Sophia’s exceptional value on a global scale. This inspection, covering various parts of Istanbul’s Historic Areas, particularly the Hagia Sophia and Chora Monastery, is still ongoing. The report to which it refers has not been finalized and for the moment it is too early to come to any conclusions.

“UNESCO’s work is governed by strict values and procedures established by the 1972 Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage which was ratified by 194 states. The World Heritage Committee, comprising 21 representatives from Member States of the Convention, is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. The results of the mission and the current inspections will be submitted to the World Heritage Committee at its next meeting scheduled for June/July 2021”.