Turkey is determined to develop relations with countries around the globe on the basis of rights and justice, the nation’s president said on Wednesday.
"Especially in places we have close relations with, such as the European Union, the United States of America, Russia, Iran, Central Asian countries, and the Arab world, we are determined to develop our relations with everyone on the basis of rights and justice," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Justice and Development (AK) Party's parliamentary group in the capital Ankara.
Erdogan reiterated that over the past two decades the number of Turkey's foreign missions worldwide surged significantly, rising from 163 in 2002 to 251 this year.
"We are actively working to find a permanent solution in every crisis region from Syria to Libya, from the Eastern Mediterranean to Aegean, from Cyprus to [Nagorno] Karabakh," he said.
Erdogan added that Turkey continues to "make every effort for our neighbor Syria to attain a climate of peace, trust, and stability based on territorial integrity and national unity."
Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN estimates.
Turkey has long been a major player in peace initiatives, including the Astana process and cease-fire efforts with Russia.
Turkey also hosts over 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any country in the world.
In an update on the planned Canal Istanbul, Erdogan said they have largely completed their preparation for the mega-project, which he called “the largest and most strategic infrastructure project in our country."
"The fact that 90% of international trade is carried out by sea and that our straits are one of the most important sea trade routes raises the importance of the Canal Istanbul project," he said.
Tenders for the Canal Istanbul project will soon start, and "we are laying the foundations this summer,” he added.
"We are starting Canal Istanbul, we will do it, and it will be in our nation's service," he said,
The construction of Canal Istanbul, with a daily passage capacity of 185 vessels, is expected to be completed in 2025-2026.
The planned 45-kilometer (28-mile) canal will be built west of the city center on the European side of the Istanbul province.
The mega-project, which aims to stem risks posed by vessels carrying dangerous materials through the Bosphorus Strait, was approved by the country's Environment and Urbanization Ministry.
Admirals' statement and opposition party
Erdogan also criticized the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) over its links to Sunday's controversial statement by some retired admirals.
"Let me say this very clearly: The CHP itself is at the center of these retired admirals," he said.
Erdogan accused the CHP of trying to sow chaos "by breaking the hope of our nation, especially our youth."
"We see this malignant mentality, which sees its power in calamity for the country and nation, as being as dangerous as terrorists and coup plotters," he said.
After an online statement by over 100 ex-admirals this Sunday warning against calling into question the 1936 Montreux Convention, top Turkish prosecutors launched a probe.
The controversial statement, which warned that Turkey could face "dangerous … events, risks, and threats to its survival, something which we know from our history," was seen by many observers as hinting at a coup.