Turkey, Russia, and Iran plan to hold an online trilateral summit with the participation of their leaders aiming to discuss Idlib in northwestern Syria and the efforts for a new Syrian constitution, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on June 11.
Stressing the significance of the political process in Syria, the minister said, “The regime needs to approach the process sincerely. It is important that the ceasefire continues and we are working for it.”
Speaking to private NTV broadcaster, the minister said it was Iran’s turn to host the next Astana summit, but now the idea is to hold a trilateral meeting via videoconference due to the pandemic before Iran convenes the Astana partners in its country.
Ankara and Moscow had agreed for the leaders’ videoconference, now they expect Iran to respond for the date, the minister said.
Elaborating on recent discussions over the possible reopening of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia as a mosque, the minister said it is “not a matter of international affairs, but a matter of national sovereignty.”
Stressing that no one should comment on freedom of religion in Turkey, Çavuşoğlu said the steps taken in the last 20 years towards various minorities in the country were “evident.”
Turkey’s top diplomat also slammed the U.S. over recently published 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom and said it is “tragicomedy” for the U.S. to comment on freedom of religion and human rights as the country has its own problems of racism and Islamophobia.
In a separate statement, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy criticized the U.S. Department of State’s 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom as “written in a language far from objectivity.”
Referring to the report’s stance on discussions to convert Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and Chora Museums into mosques, Aksoy said, “Hagia Sophia and Chora are the properties of the Republic of Turkey and all means of authority [on the museums] are a matter of Turkey’s internal affairs.
Çavuşoğlu also commented on a recent call by Egypt for a ceasefire in Libya and said the Cairo Declaration is “stillborn.”
“We can proceed for a binding ceasefire in Libya under the umbrella of the United Nations,” he added.
“For some reason, the United States has not been that active in Libya, perhaps because of past traumas,” he said and emphasized the U.S. needs to play a more active role in Libya, both in achieving a ceasefire and in political talks, he said.
The involvement of the U.S., a NATO ally, was important to protect the alliance’s interests, he said, adding that Turkish and U.S. officials would discuss possible steps, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed.
A recent agreement between Italy and Greece on delimiting maritime zones confirms Turkey’s arguments on demarcating maritime boundaries and this deal on Ionian Sea has no say on the memorandum of understating sealed between Turkey and Libya, he also said.