President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has defended the gargantuan size of Turkey's new presidential palace in Ankara
- revealing that it has more than 1,150 rooms, rather than 1,000 as previously reported. He also claimed that Buckingham Palace in London cost British taxpayers almost $8 billion.
"It does not have 1,000 rooms. It has more than 1,150 rooms," Erdoğan said while speaking at a meeting of Anatolian business group ASKON in Istanbul on Dec. 6.
Arguing that the size and cost of the new presidential palace are criticized only out of "jealousy," Erdoğan stressed that it is "the nation's palace," not his own.
"Buckingham Palace was restored for £5 billion, or around $7-8 billion. And they have many other palaces like that," he added, claiming that critics "do not want to see growth in Turkey."
British media had reported last year that the restoration of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle cost £50 million, a hundred times lower than the figure mentioned by Erdoğan. Before the restoration, the British palaces were "crumbling," according to local media, and most rooms at Buckingham Palace had not been decorated for 60 years.
The cost of Turkey’s controversial new presidential palace, on the other hand, currently stands at 1.37 billion Turkish Liras ($615 million), according to official figures.
Claims that the actual cost is much higher were voiced again last week, after Turkey’s Housing Development Administration (TOKİ) refused to divulge the cost of the new palace on the grounds that the move “could hurt the economy.” Moreover, the contractor that built the complex recently admitted that it was not sure of how many rooms the palace possessed.
During his Dec. 6 speech, Erdoğan also touched on last year's nationwide anti-government Gezi Park protests, saying they could have evolved into "an uprising" if the government had not taken the steps to stop them.
“What would have happened if the Gezi events were not taken under control and [the government] had surrendered to street violence? The answer to this question has been given in Egypt and Ukraine," he said.
The president also said the Turkish police had behaved "gently" to protesters compared to police the U.S., whose killings of civilians have triggered massive anger.
“They put people down and kill them by hitting their heads to the ground, leaving them breathless. [The victims] did not hold a gun or fire bombs. Did our police kill citizens or point a gun at them? Shouldn’t the police defend themselves to avoid being killed?” he asked.
Erdoğan again referred to the “parallel structure” of the movement of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, which he accuses of plotting to topple the government, saying that it has "worked against the police defending themselves."
The struggle between erstwhile allies Erdoğan and Gülen erupted late last year after a massive corruption investigation against four ministers led by Istanbul prosecutors went public. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) says the operation was a plot carried out by prosecutors and police officers loyal to Gülen.
Erdoğan also criticized the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for the recent felling of around 250 trees in the western province of Yalova.
“Where are those environmentalists now?” he asked, slamming the local mayor in Yalova who is a member of the CHP.