Russia 'concerned' over Azerbaijani-Armenian clashes
Kremlin spokesman says Russia is ready to serve as a mediator to ease tensions
Russia is deeply concerned over the border clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.
He called on the sides to exercise restraint, adding that Russia is ready to serve as a mediator in finding a peace solution.
"We are deeply concerned about the shootings on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. We call on both sides to exercise restraint and respect their obligations under the cease-fire. Russia, as we have already stated at various levels, is ready to provide its mediation efforts for a settlement, as a co-chair of the Minsk group," Peskov said.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group -- co-chaired by France, Russia and the US -- was formed to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but has yet to get any results.
Seven Azerbaijani soldiers were martyred, including a general and a major in a border clash with Armenian troops on Sunday.
Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, has been illegally occupied since 1991 through Armenian military aggression.
Hagia Sophia 'Turkey's internal affair'
Turning to the change of the Hagia Sophia's status, Peskov said it is an internal matter of Turkey, and Russia cannot and does not intend to interfere in it.
Ankara's announcement that the monument in Istanbul will be preserved as a UNESCO heritage site and that it will be opened for everyone was received with satisfaction in Moscow, he added.
"Public reaction in the Russian Federation among the Orthodox is very high, and this is connected with the deep sacred significance of the Hagia Sophia for the Orthodox, for all Christians. This explains the emotional reaction, including the reaction of the Patriarch," he explained.
Last week a top Turkish court annulled a 1934 cabinet decree, which had turned Istanbul's Hagia Sophia into a museum.
This verdict by the country's Council of State paved the way for its use again as a mosque after 85 years.
It ruled that the architectural gem had been owned by a foundation established by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Istanbul, and presented to the community as a mosque -- a status that cannot be legally changed.
The Hagia Sophia was used as a church for centuries under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. It was turned into a mosque following the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. In 1935, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the historical complex will be ready for worship by Friday prayers on July 24.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.