An excerpt from, "The battle for Haghia Sophia in Istanbul escalates" By Pinar Tremblay, Al-Monitor, June 15, 2016:
A Greek diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Al-Monitor, “In the last five years, Turkey has converted three other churches with the name Haghia Sophia into mosques and senior Turkish government officials keep using Haghia Sophia on social media and other platforms as a bargaining chip whenever something goes against their wishes. This is a monumental building with immense symbolic value for Christians, so we are worried about it becoming a sacrifice for populist policies.”
Aris Abaci, a researcher in Turkish-Greek relations, told Al-Monitor that both sides are sticking to their usual style of fighting words, yet he observed that the rebuttal of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs this time was different. Abaci said, “For the first time, we see that the Turkish official language argues modernity should not be presented as if it is against Islam. It also indicates that it views Haghia Sophia exclusively from a religious angle.” Abaci added that both sides are approaching the issue in terms of identity politics, hence ending up at a zero-sum game.
Angelos Syrigos, an assistant professor of international law and foreign policy at Panteion University in Athens, agrees that the main fear behind the Greek reaction is that Haghia Sophia will soon be turned into a mosque. “The reason for the transformation will be the need of [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan to increase his popularity in view of a referendum that will introduce Turkey to the presidential system,” he told Al-Monitor.