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UNESCO ‘deeply regrets’ Hagia Sophia decision, calls for dialogue

United Nations cultural agency UNESCO has said it "deeply regrets" the decision of Turkish authorities to turn the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul from a museum back into a mosque.

United Nations cultural agency UNESCO has said it “deeply regrets” the decision of Turkish authorities to turn the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul from a museum back into a mosque.

“Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries,” UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement. “Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage, and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue.”

UNESCO warned that the decision could have an impact on the Hagia Sophia’s status as part of the world heritage site of the Historic Areas of Istanbul, and warned against any measures that could affect access to the site, the structure of the buildings, or its management.

The UN agency said that the “effective, inclusive and equitable participation of communities and other stakeholders” was necessary to preserve the site’s heritage, and called on Turkey to “initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage.”

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