04/17/2015, 00.00
TURKEY – EUROPEAN UNION – VATI
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Armenian Genocide: Turkish politicians criticise the EU; Mufti reacts to pope’s words threatening to turn Saint Sophia into a mosque

Erdogan’s moderate Islamist party as well as the Kemalist and right wing nationalist parties issue a statement slamming the European parliament as “partial” and “intolerant”. For the mufti of Ankara, Pope Francis’ statement was "extremely spectacular." For the first time in 85 years, a passage from the Qur’an was recited at Saint Sophia. A symposium during Holy Birth Week was held in Istanbul on “The Prophet and Cohabitation Ethics and Law".

Ankara (AsiaNews) – Turkish political parties (with one exception) released a joint statement against the European Parliament’s ‘genocide’ vote on the mass killings of Anatolian Armenians during World War I. 

At the same time, Mefail Hızlı, the mufti of Ankara, spoke out against Pope Francis for his use of the word ‘genocide’ in connection with the mass slaughter of Armenians, saying that the pontiff’s remarks will accelerate the rededication of Istanbul’s Saint Sophia Basilica as a mosque.

On Wednesday, the European parliament passed the motion on the Armenian genocide. Calling on Ankara to acknowledge the event, it urged Turkey and Armenia to use the occasion of the centenary of the genocide to establish diplomatic relations.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as well as the main opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), yesterday released a joint statement “harshly condemning the partial approach” of the European Parliament, which backed a motion calling the mass killings of Anatolian Armenians during World War I a “genocide.” 

The statement condemned the parliament’s “partial” approach as against “the idea of peace, toleration and building of a common future.”

“Despite our objections, the European Parliament prefers to deepen the problem and gap between our two societies . . . and prevent impartial and scientific research of the issue,” said the joint statement.

Only the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) abstained from signing the declaration, calling the reaction against the pope by Erdogan and the other parties as childish. Instead, “The government should found a truth and reconciliation commission in order to face the past,” HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş.

For his part, the Mufti of Ankara Hızli Mefail said, “The statement that the Catholic world’s spiritual leader pope delivered three days ago, saying Armenians had been subjected to a genocide, is extremely spectacular”.

In his view, the pope’s statement reflects “a modern colour of the crusader wars launched in these lands for centuries.”

“Frankly, I believe that the pope’s remarks will only accelerate the process for Hagia Sophia to be re-opened for [Muslim] worship”.

The latter echoes other voices who, in recent years, have called for Saint Sophia Basilica to be turned into a mosque.

Following the city’s conquest by the Ottomans in 1453, the church was used as a mosque. This lasted until the authorities of Turkey’s new Republic reopened it in 1935 as a museum.

Last Friday, for the first time in 85 years, a Muslim cleric recited the Qur‘an in Hagia Sophia.

A passage from the Qur’an was recited late on April 10 at a ceremony at the basilica to mark the opening of a new exhibition titled ‘Love of the Prophet’ as part of this year’s Holy Birth Week. This includes a symposium that opened today on “The Prophet and Cohabitation Ethics and Law".

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