Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday discussed in a phone conversation developments in Syria and Libya, as well as the fate of Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia, according to the Kremlin.
The two leaders emphasized the importance of stepping up efforts to promote a Syrian settlement, including in the Astana format based on agreements reached at the Russian-Turkish-Iranian online summit held on July 1, according to the statement.
The parties highly appreciated the interaction between the Russian and Turkish defence ministries, which helped stabilize the situation in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib and in the country’s northeast, the statement said.
Putin and Erdogan reiterated the need for an early end to the armed confrontation and a return to the negotiation process in Libya on the basis of the decisions of the Berlin Conference held on January 19, approved by UN Security Council and agreed to intensify joint political and diplomatic efforts in this area, it said.
On Friday, Erdogan announced that the Hagia Sophia, one of the architectural wonders of the world, would be reopened for Muslim worship, sparking fury in the Christian community and neighbouring Greece.
The UNESCO World Heritage site in historic 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.
Hagia Sophia, which stands opposite the impressive Sultanahmet Mosque — often called the Blue Mosque, has been a museum since 1935 and open to believers of all faiths.
Transforming it from a mosque was a key reform under the new republic born out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
Erdogan has in recent years placed great emphasis on the battles which resulted in the defeat of Byzantium by the Ottomans, with lavish celebrations held every year to mark the conquest.
Putin and Erdogan also exchanged views on certain issues on the bilateral agenda, including the prospects for the resumption of tourism as the COVID-19 situation improves, the statement added.
(With inputs from agency)