UPDATED WITH MORE REMARKS
By Faruk Zorlu and Havva Kara Aydin
ANKARA (AA) - Hagia Sophia will be "better preserved" following Turkey's decision to reconvert Istanbul’s iconic architectural gem into a mosque after decades as a museum, Turkey's ruling party spokesman said Monday.
"All features of Hagia Sophia will be preserved. It will even be better preserved from now on," said Omer Celik, spokesman for the Justice and Development (AK) Party, after a board meeting of the party.
Also, UNESCO officials should know that Turkey is open to any cooperation to preserve Hagia Sophia's universal heritage, Celik added.
"We do not think that Hagia Sophia will be removed from the UNESCO cultural heritage list," he said, adding that Hagia Sophia is not honored with that list, rather the list is honored with Hagia Sophia.
"Hagia Sophia will continue to show its glory to all of humanity as a great place that carries the magnificence of the mosque and the cultural heritage of the universal world," he stressed.
On Friday, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after an 85-year hiatus. Before that, Hagia Sophia had been a mosque for nearly 500 years.
- Armenian aggression unacceptable
Strongly condemning a deadly Armenian attack on Azerbaijani troops, Celik called on Armenia to "watch its step," saying such aggression is wholly unacceptable.
He added: "Turkey will always stand by its Azerbaijani brothers under any circumstances."
Celik's remarks came in the wake of Sunday border clash with Armenian troops in which four Azerbaijani soldiers were martyred and four injured.
Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, has been illegally occupied since 1991 through Armenian military aggression.
- Missing refugee children in Europe
On a report by ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party Deputy Serap Yasar about missing refugee and migrant children in Europe presented to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Celik called this issue a "gaping wound" in Europe.
This report shows the number of missing refugee children in Germany between 2017 and 2019 stood at over 11,000, along with 6,000 in France, nearly 20,000 in Italy and over 9,000 in Spain.
These children are entrusted to all and an honor for humanity, Celik stressed.
Based on the report, the total number of missing refugee children is estimated at around 100,000.