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Erdoğan, Borisov inaugurate restored Bulgarian church in Istanbul

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (C), Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım (L) and Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov (R) visit the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church after its' inauguration ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey on January 7, 2018. Ali Balikçi / Anadolu Agency

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on Sunday reopened a historic Bulgarian church in Istanbul following major restoration of the structure, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Erdoğan said at the inauguration ceremony that the reopening of the Iron Church sent an important message for the international community.

“I believe it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that everyone can worship freely,” he said, adding that Turkey has supported the restoration of more than 5,000 artifacts in the past 15 years.

Borisov praised the restoration of the church, calling it “unique and magnificent.”

In reference to Turkey’s EU membership process, Borisov said efforts to normalize relations between Turkey and the EU were needed in the coming year.

The Orthodox church, also known as St. Stephen’s, is located in the historic Balat neighborhood on the shore of the Golden Horn.

It has been undergoing major restoration for the last seven years in a project co-funded by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and the Bulgarian government.

Fourteen houses of worship have recently been restored in Turkey.

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