With an undisguised triumph in his voice, Turkish President Erdoğan announced a breakthrough in the Turkish energy supply in a press conference that had been expected for days. According to him, the Turkish research vessel “Fatih” found the largest gas field ever discovered in the Black Sea, a little east of Istanbul. It contains 320 billion cubic meters of high-quality natural gas that could cover Turkey’s energy supply for 20 years.
“Unexpectedly, God opened a door for us,” said Erdoğan and then referred to the dispute over the possible natural gas yield in the Mediterranean.
The ninth well brought success
Erdoğan praised the possible gas field in the Black Sea as a great national success. In the past, foreign companies have searched and never found anything. Turkey currently has three ships that can carry out test drillings at a depth of more than a thousand meters and two other research ships can carry out seismic measurements on the seabed.
The drilling ship “Fatih” has carried out a total of 10 test drillings in the past few years. The ninth well would have brought success. The first gas could in theory flow out of the sea in just three years. Berat Albayrak, finance minister and Erdoğan’s son-in-law, who also commented on the event, rejoiced that in future „we will no longer talk about Turkey’s foreign trade deficit, but only about our surpluses”.
Economy in depression
The new gas, if it is actually confirmed to the extent that Erdoğan is now claiming, would come at a right time for the struggling president. It will be a long time before concrete results can actually be achieved, but Erdoğan needs success now, however, because the Turkish economy is on the brink of collapse and the value of the Turkish lira against the dollar and the euro is threatening to decline. Speculation about gas reserves in the Black Sea alone caused the lira to rise again for the first time in weeks.
Islamic script book still valid
Several weeks after the conversion of Hagia Sophia, the former Chora Church in Istanbul is now also a mosque
Sharp reactions were triggered by the conversion of the main church (“Katholikon”) of Istanbul’s Chora monastery into a mosque. Christian representatives described the transformation of the famous church, which has been a museum since 1958, as a “disfigurement”, as Kathpress reported.
It is a “provocative act” by the Turkish government that undermines the “interreligious and intercultural dialogue”. The Greek Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni spoke of an “affront to the world cultural heritage”. The main church of the Chora monastery is one of the “most important Byzantine monuments”. The mosaics and art of the church represented “unique works”. The image of the Mother of God from Chora can be found in all books about Byzantine history and Byzantine art worldwide. The same applies to the mosaic of Christ enthroned, which Theodoros Metochites, the great innovator of Chora in the early 14th century, presented the model of the church.
Erdoğan is taking a “step backwards”
All of this shows that it is a monument whose artistic value is comparable to that of Hagia Sophia. “We are all talking about the dialogue of cultures, about consensus and tolerance. With such acts as the one now set by the Turkish President, a step backwards is happening,” emphasized Mendoni.
The religious building from the 11th century is world-famous for its mosaics and frescoes. After the conquest of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, the Ottomans made it a mosque in 1511 and covered the Christian works of art. In 1948 the state declared the church a museum and made the images accessible again.
An official statement from the Greek Foreign Ministry said that the Turkish decision on the Chora Church was “a renewed challenge for religious people around the world, but also for the international community that respects the monuments of human culture”. After the conversion of Hagia Sophia back into a mosque, the status of another UNESCO World Heritage Site was “brutally insulted“, despite the sharp international reactions to this decision.
Despite occasional statements about the respect for the rights of minorities and the multi-religious character of Turkish society, Ankara has again violated its international obligations with regard to the sites of the world cultural heritage on its territory. Ankara’s behavior is “absolutely reprehensible”. The Athens declaration goes on to say: “We call on this country to keep pace with international developments in the field of the protection of world cultural heritage. Turkey must move into the 21st century of mutual respect, dialogue and understanding .“
“Painful and sad”
The EU spokeswoman for foreign policy, Nabila Massrali, said in response to questions by journalists that Brussels is “watching” the processes surrounding the conversion of the main church of the Chora monastery into a mosque. Like Hagia Sophia, the Chora Church is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a member of Unesco’s “Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity”, Turkey must feel obliged to interreligious and intercultural dialogue and to promote tolerance and coexistence.
It is “painful and extremely sad” that the Turkish government has a disregard for world cultural heritage sites, according to a statement by the Russian Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate on the conversion of the main church of the Chora monastery into a mosque. Even in Hagia Sophia, there is no longer any possibility to see the masterpieces of Christian art that “remain veiled”. Access by women is also “limited”. There is the impression that the Turkish leadership wants to continue to ignore the legacy of the conquered Eastern Roman Empire, which is obviously viewed as “foreign”. Christian cultural values are treated with “cold indifference” and a “condescending attitude” in Turkey. Unfortunately, none of this contributes to understanding, cooperation and friendship between peoples or “to mutual respect between believers of different religions”.