July 28
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The US government is looking forward to hearing about Turkey’s plans to ensure that Hagia Sophia remains accessible to all without any obstacles, Ahval reported.

In an exclusive comment, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus expressed 'disappointment' with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque and reminded that the cathedral is an important part of Istanbul’s historical sights included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

“We are disappointed by the decision by the Government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia. This building is an important part of the "Historic Sites of Istanbul" UNESCO World Heritage Site, in recognition of its rich multicultural history.

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."

Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Turkish government to keep Hagia Sophia a museum.

Pompeo's statement runs as follows:

The Government of Turkey has administered the Hagia Sophia as a museum – officially recognized by UNESCO as part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul World Heritage Site – in an outstanding manner for nearly a century.  We urge the Government of Turkey to continue to maintain the Hagia Sophia as a museum, as an exemplar of its commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history that contributed to the Republic of Turkey and to ensure it remains accessible to all.

This extraordinary site is a testament to religious expression and to artistic and technical genius, reflected in its rich and complex 1,500-year history.  Moreover, the site’s status as a museum has allowed people from all over the world to access and reflect upon this magnificent achievement.

The United States views a change in the status of the Hagia Sophia as diminishing the legacy of this remarkable building and its unsurpassed ability—so rare in the modern world—to serve humanity as a much-needed bridge between those of differing faith traditions and cultures.  We seek to continue to work with the Government of Turkey on a broad range of issues of mutual interest, including the preservation of religious and cultural sites.

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