On 13 July 2020, during the European Union (EU) Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, EU Foreign Ministers shared views on the impact of COVID-19 and the state of affairs in Turkey focusing on EU-Turkish relations and Turkey’s role in the region, according to a statement from the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“In a discussion on relations with Turkey, Edgars Rinkēvičs drew the Council’s attention to the need for the EU to clearly articulate its position against the transformation of the status of the cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque. Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage site,” the statement said.
UNESCO said last week its World Heritage Committee would review Hagia Sophia’s status as a heritage site after Turkish President Erdogan declared the ancient monument in Istanbul a mosque again, reversing a 1934 move by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern secular Turkish republic.
Rinkēvičs also “called on the EU to draw up a new strategy vis-à-vis Turkey. Turkey is an important partner to the EU, with whom it is essential to continue dialogue and cooperation in the areas of common interest, thereby promoting mutual understanding,” the statement said, though it did not contain any details of what this “new strategy” might include.