President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday stressed the importance of the Canal Istanbul project, calling it a “world brand.”
Speaking at a ceremony presenting his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's Istanbul candidates, Erdogan said the project would help avoid environmental disaster in the Turkish Straits.
The planned canal is meant to provide relief to shipping traffic between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, particularly oil tanker traffic passing through the Bosphorus.
The 45-kilometer (nearly 28-mile) canal, to built in Istanbul's Kucukcekmece-Sazlidere-Durusu corridor, is to boast a capacity of 160 vessels a day and is scheduled to be completed by 2023, Turkey’s centennial.
“If we don’t want to see other tanker or mansion disasters in the Bosphorus, I remind you once again why building Canal Istanbul is a must," Erdogan said.
On April 7, a ship hit the shore of the Bosphorus Strait and crashed into a historic Istanbul mansion, causing extensive damage.
“We are building Canal Istanbul to avoid such incidents,” Erdogansaid.
The president stressed the canal is a strategic developmental project.
He added that if the project were halted, this would endanger the Bosphorus' future.
- Tourist numbers soaring
Later, campaigning in the northwestern province of Tekirdag, Erdogan said this year Turkey hopes to attract 40 million tourists, adding that under AK Party rule tourist numbers have soared from 13 million to 35 million.
He added that if they are elected for another term on June 24, they hope to attract 50 million tourists annually within the next five years.
“You already know Istanbul, but on Oct. 29, you will see a new Istanbul,” Erdogan said, as that day Istanbul is due to open its long-awaited third airport.
“This airport will have the capacity for 90 million passengers a year. We hope to increase this capacity to 150 million by 2023,” he added.
He said that the world will admire the new airport, and the number of tourists will skyrocket.
Once all its sections are completed in 2025, it will be the world's largest airport with a 200-million passenger capacity, and will spread across 76.5 million square meters (251 million square feet).
Some 250 airlines are set to fly out of the airport to more than 350 destinations.
- Anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul
Later in the day, Erdogan spoke at a program marking the 565th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul.
In his speech, Erdogan laid out ongoing and planned mega projects in Istanbul, including construction of the third airport in the city, set to be among the world’s three largest airports, the Ataturk Cultural Center and opera building, and a three-level underwater tunnel connecting the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.
After the new airport opens later this year, Ataturk International Airport will be turned into a mega park some three time bigger than New York’s Central Park and around nine times bigger than London’s Hyde Park, he said.
In the years to come, Istanbul will get 30 green areas and five mega parks, boosting green space in the city, according to Erdogan.
Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered Istanbul on May 29,1453, from where the Byzantines had ruled the Eastern Roman Empire for more than 1,000 years.
The conquest transformed the city, once the heart of the Byzantine realm, into the capital of the new Ottoman Empire.
By Nurettin Coskun, Sena Guler and Sorwar Alam