France says Istanbul's Hagia Sophia must remain open to all

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the sixth-century Hagia Sophia museum originally built as a Christian cathedral in Istanbul must remain open to all.

A Turkish court on Thursday heard a petition seeking to convert the Hagia Sophia, one of Turkey’s most visited and beloved tourist sites, back into a mosque.

“A symbol of tolerance and diversity, this place must remain open to all,” a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

The Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was at the core of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires, and is today one of Turkey’s most visited monuments.

Reporting by John Irish, writing by Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Mark Heinrich