Wednesday 2nd September 2020

An in-depth discussion on important issues concerning Greece, but also the world community, between the Director General of UNESCO Mrs. Audrey Azoulay and the Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, took place on Monday 31 August 2020.

The teleconference was held on the occasion of the recent recognition of Mrs. Vardinoyannis with the Nelson Mandela Prize 2020 by the United Nations on which the Director-General of UNESCO congratulated her, stressing that UNESCO is “proud of her” as this prize is a “top distinction in the family of the United Nations and so it is a great honor for us at UNESCO to have you as the recipient of this award“.

During the teleconference, Mrs. Vardinoyannis raised the major issues concerning Greece, namely the issue of Hagia Sophia and the relations between Greece and Turkey.

Regarding Hagia Sophia, Mrs. Vardinoyannis thanked Mrs. Azoulay for UNESCO’s reaction to the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque and she was informed about the next steps of UNESCO on this important issue.

I take this opportunity to thank you for one more time for UNESCO’s efforts and your personal deep concern to protect the unique outstanding value and universal character of Hagia Sophia. The inscription of Hagia Sofia on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, as an integral part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul, in 1985, was the recent milestone in the rich historical and cultural identity of this monument and museum. As such, it must retain its ecumenical character which is of immense spiritual and cultural importance for billions of people from various religious backgroundsMrs. Vardinoyannis said.

At the same time, Mrs. Vardinoyannis spoke to Mrs. Azoulay about Greece’s proposals for the inclusion of Greek monuments in the UNESCO World Heritage List, an issue on which Mrs. Vardinoyannis is making great efforts, through her role in UNESCO.

I feel the need to thank you for your special attention regarding the examination of the proposals of Greek monuments and sites to be included  in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, like the Palaces of Crete, Spinalonga and Zagorochoria. I would also like to inform you about our will to propose “Erotokritos”, a masterpiece of Greek literature, to be included in the Intangible Heritage ListMrs. Vardinoyannis said.

During the teleconference, the two ladies also discussed about the global crisis due to the pandemic and the initiatives that must be taken immediately to ensure international cooperation in the scientific research for the vaccine in view of the UN General Assembly in 2021.  Mrs. Vardinoyannis stressed that the vaccine should be free to all and informed Mrs. Azoulay of the initiatives she has taken in this direction.

Mrs. Vardinoyannis and Mrs. Azoulay agreed to proceed and cooperate in specific initiatives related to the next day of the pandemic and to education.

Mrs. Azoulay informed Mrs. Vardinoyannis that she recently visited Beirut, two schools and many monuments and buildings that have been destroyed by the explosion and expressed her deep concern and her will for UNESCO to help the Lebanese people rebuild schools and important buildings. Mrs. Vardinoyannis pledged to assist UNESCO in the reconstruction.

The Greek Goodwill Ambassador also suggested to Mrs. Azoulay to co-organize a virtual event in the memory of Nelson Mandela in coming December. Ms. Vardinoyannis made this proposal as a recipient of the UN Nelson Mandela Prize, being committed to promote Nelson Mandela’s legacy and wisdom.