Turkish Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay said Thursday that his country wishes to start a "dialogue" with French authorities for the return of tiles and other antiquities on display at the Louvre museum in Paris which Turkey claims were removed from the country illegally at the end of the 19th century.
The contested pieces include tiles from a historic Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. The tiles are part of a 12-metre- (40-foot-) long mosaic put together by the Louvre and one of the highlights of a new wing of Islamic art which was launched at the end of October. Turkey's Radikal newspaper said they were "stolen" from the Piyale Pasha mosque designed by Ottoman imperial architect Mimar Sinan for the vizier and grand admiral Piyale Mehmed Pasha and built between 1565 and 1573. Louvre authorities have said the pieces used in the mosaic were either donated and bought between 1871 and 1940, "In conditions that were perfectly legal and in line with the rules of the time". Turkey has also long been seeking the return of tiles taken from the 16th-century tomb of Sultan Selim II in Istanbul but former culture minister Frederic Mitterrand rejected the demand.