Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he would not retreat from plans to construct a mosque on İstanbul's Çamlıca Hill, and pledged that the mosque will be very beautiful and that it will be much admired once it is built.
“The beauty of the [planned] mosque is not so clear on the model. But it will be very beautiful, trust me,” Erdoğan said when speaking to a group of journalists aboard a plane on the route to Spain from the Turkish capital on Tuesday. He also said the mosque will not host a supermarket or any other commercial building in its vicinity
There is an ongoing campaign asking for an end to the mosque project. Critics of the project say a planned mosque will look artificial.
The project, the work of architects Bahar Mızrak and Gül Totu, was selected from a shortlist of two runners-up, chosen through a design competition. The mosque, which will occupy a nearly 15,000-square-meter plot and have the capacity to hold approximately 30,000 people, is designed to be visible from every corner of İstanbul, and plans include cultural and social facilities in its vicinity.
Erdoğan also said a mosque will be built in Taksim.
When journalists asked him to comment on a meeting he held with former chief of General Staff retired Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt at the Dolmabahçe Palace in İstanbul in 2007, the prime minister said he would not give a slightest indication as to what the two discussed during the meeting.
“It was one of the many meetings I have held during my term in office as prime minister. I was in İstanbul at the time [of the meeting] and I invited Büyükanıt to İstanbul to hold a meeting,” Erdoğan stated.
“It is not solely the Dolmabahçe meeting. Many other meetings will go to the grave with me. What I cannot understand is why people keep asking us about the content of meetings we hold at the prime minister's office. Do I provide details about content of my other meetings that I have to give an explanation about the Dolmabahçe meeting?” he asked.
There were rumors that Erdoğan had shown Büyükanıt a file documenting the expenses of the general's spouse, Filiz Büyükanıt, threatening to share the document with the media and judicial bodies if the general failed to prevent the military from making coup preparations against Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.
‘Gaza is ready for my visit'
In addition, the prime minister reiterated his earlier statement that he could pay an “unexpected” visit to Gaza. “I talked to [Hamas leader] Khaled Mashal. I may make a surprise for you. He invited me [to Gaza]. He said they were ready for my visit,” Erdoğan told journalists.
The prime minister also said he might go to Gaza at any time last week after Israel and Hamas secured an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire deal. He said he does not believe Hamas will violate the terms of the truce unless Israel resumes its bombing. When asked if he is planning to visit Gaza, Erdoğan said, “I could go unexpectedly.”