For half a century, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has been refusing to open the Halki Seminary under a faculty of theology in Istanbul, the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

“…And it has been 50 years since the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate refuses to open the Halki (Heybeliada) Seminary under a faculty of theology in Istanbul, in compliance with Turkish legislation,” Tanju Bilgic, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on Twitter.

Remarks of Bilgic came after US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Twitter accused Turkey of closing a former Greek seminary on Istanbul’s Princes’ Islands.

“Fifty years ago Turkey’s nationalization of higher education caused the Halki Seminary to close. We continue to urge the government of Turkey to respect the universal human right of religious freedom and allow Halki Seminary to freely train Orthodox,” Price wrote.

Established in 1844, the seminary was closed in 1971 under a law that placed religious and military training under state control.

In recent years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that the seminary could be reopened if steps are taken by Athens to improve the condition of the Muslim community in Western Thrace, an area of Greece with a large Turkish Muslim population.

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