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Feb 16 2019

No seminary without minarets for Greek mosque, says Erdoğan

The mosque in Athens should open with minarets if Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants to reopen the Greek Orthodox Halki seminary in Istanbul, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Saturday.

"Look you want something from us, you want the Halki seminary. And I tell you [Greece], come, let's open the Fethiye Mosque," Turkey’s Marxist news website SoL reported Erdoğan as saying during a rally in the northwestern province of Edirne ahead of local elections on March 31.

Erdoğan’s suggestion follows a visit by Tsipras to Turkey earlier this month, when he stopped by the Hagia Sophia museum and the now-closed Greek Orthodox Halki seminary, shut down in 1971 after tensions between Ankara and Athens over Cyprus. 

The Greek premier said during his visit to the seminary that he hoped to reopen the school next time with Erdoğan. 

Halki seminary, the only facility in the country to train orthodox clergy, is a symbol of the rights of minority groups.

Turkey’s strongman on Saturday complained about the lack of minarets on Athens’ Fethiye Mosque, despite Greek assurance on the matter.

Built in 1458 during the Ottoman occupation of Greece, the building has not been used as a mosque since 1821.

"They said, 'we are opening the mosque' but I said, why isn't there a minaret? Can a church be a church without a bell tower?" Erdoğan said, adding, "We say, you want to build a bell tower? Come and do it... But what is an essential part of our mosques? The minarets."

The mosque’s minaret is believed by some to have been destroyed over its symbolism of Ottoman occupation.

Ankara has previously noted that reopening the seminary is dependent on reciprocal steps from Greece to improve the rights of its Turkish minority.