Hagia Sophia belongs to the Turkish nation and no one other than that has a right to say anything about it, the Turkish defense minister said on Friday. 

“Hagia Sophia belongs to the State of Republic of Turkey and the Turkish nation. So the one who can have a say about it is the State of Republic of Turkey and the Turkish nation,” Hulusi Akar said at a ceremony held by Bogazici University in Istanbul, marking July 15 Democracy and National Unity Day. 

The day commemorates those who laid down their lives to foil the 2016 coup attempt orchestrated by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its US-based leader Fetullah Gulen. The defeated coup left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured. 

Last week, a top Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree, which had turned Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum. 

After centuries of service as a church under the Byzantine Empire, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II following his conquest of Istanbul in 1453.

Turkey to continue to stand with Azerbaijan 

“Armenia, which unjustly and unlawfully occupy Upper Karabakh, has recently carried out an attack on the Tovuz region of Azerbaijan, going beyond its limits,” Akar said, recalling the incident last Sunday in which eleven Azerbaijani soldiers were martyred. 

Noting that Azerbaijan is very dear to Turkey, he said the Turkish nation deeply shares their pain. 

“We strongly condemn this heinous attack,” Akar said. 

“As Turkey, we will always continue to stand with brotherly Azerbaijan,” he added. 

Fight against FETO 

Akar said the Turkish nation, under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left a heritage of democracy to the future generations by defeating the heinous coup attempt, which he called the biggest treachery.

He said a total of 20,070 FETO members, who infiltrated the Turkish Armed Forces, have been dismissed from their duties since 2016.

He added that the fight against the terror group continues with determination with new information, documents and data.

“We are determined to eliminate the terror trouble,” Akar stressed.

* Writing by Sena Guler

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