The State Department said in a statement Tuesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be focusing on religious freedom during his upcoming visit to Turkey, angering Turkish Officials who condemned the statement.
Pompeo, who is scheduled to visit seven different countries in a 10-day trip beginning Friday, will meet in Istanbul with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Associated Press reports. They will talk about religious issues in Turkey and promote the United States’ “strong stance on religious freedom around the world,” the statement says.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister called the statement “extremely inappropriate” and defended Turkey’s guarantee to people of all faiths that they can practice their religion freely in the country, per the AP. “It would be more advisable for the United States to look in the mirror first and to show the necessary sensitivity to human rights violations such as racism, Islamophobia and hate crimes in its own country,” a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry read. (RELATED: Pompeo Dodges Question About Working With Biden Transition Team: ‘There Will Be A Smooth Transition To A Second Trump Administration’)
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry rebuked Pompeo’s statement as “extremely inappropriate,” insisting that the country protects the rights of citizens of various faiths to freely practice their religions.https://t.co/KoA39jqM1w
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Pompeo is not scheduled to meet with any officials from the Turkish government during his stop in Istanbul. In July, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan converted the iconic Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The building was considered to be one of the most important cathedrals in Christianity before before it was first changed into a mosque after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople, according to the AP. The site had been used as a museum for the past 86 years. (RELATED: Boris Johnson, Other World Leaders Congratulate Joe Biden And Kamala Harris On Winning Election)
Turkey has been involved in multiple disputes involving religion recently. Erdogan has feuded with French President Emmanuel Macron over the latter’s comments about Islamism following recent terror attacks in France. Turkey was also a backer of Muslim-majority Azerbaijan in the recently ended Nagorno-Karabakh conflict against majority-Christian Armenia.