Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has said that the letter he recently gave to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned him against people who are attempting to “damage” the relations between the central government and municipality.
“In the letter, I wrote that there are people who want to damage the channels [of communication] between the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and central government, that this situation needs to be rectified and that this should not be allowed,” İmamoğlu told reporters on Jan. 17.
İmamoğlu also said that his letter included a demand to meet Erdoğan in person to explain the municipality’s stance regarding the controversial Kanal Istanbul project, which aims to create an artificial seaway between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. This issue is one of the hottest topics on the Turkish agenda nowadays, with the opposition slamming it for paving the way for “unearned income” at the expense of the environment.
“I cannot explain the Kanal [Istanbul project] in a four-page-long letter. I want to explain this issue face-to-face. I conveyed my demand that I would like to have a face-to-face meeting, to hold a presentation and to explain about Istanbul’s current and future situation to Turkey’s President, as the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor, who was elected having received the highest number of votes ever in Istanbul,” İmamoğlu said.
The mayor also said that he has not so far received an answer from Erdoğan regarding his meeting request, but was “waiting for it curiously and urgently on behalf of Istanbul people.”
İmamoğlu’s remarks came after Erdoğan earlier in the day told reporters that he will not reveal the content of the relevant letter, but it includes issues “other than” Kanal Istanbul project.
“This is a secret letter. I do not know if he himself made a statement, but there are things in it other than what he told you [the media]. It is better if he revealed it himself. It would not be right to talk about it if it is a personal letter,” Erdoğan told reporters.
İmamoğlu gave the relevant letter to Erdoğan after the two met at the Smart Cities and Municipalities Congress and Exhibition in the capital Ankara on Jan. 15. The content of the letter has been a mystery since then, with İmamoğlu at the time saying that he in his letter expressed his wish to talk to Erdoğan about the Kanal Istanbul project. İmamoğlu has publicly in many occasions said that the controversial project, dubbed Erdoğan’s “crazy project,” would be a disaster for the megacity Istanbul.
“I have many times requested a meeting with him, saying ‘Mr. President, please invite us, let’s talk about it, let us make a presentation about it [the project]. And the most precious moment of today [the Smart Cities congress] was when I gave him a letter in which I reiterated this demand. I gave him a four-page-long letter,” İmamoğlu told reporters on Jan. 15.
On Jan. 17, Erdoğan said that the Kanal Istanbul project is not a matter that İmamoğlu should “be involved in,” but rather it is the central government’s “issue.” “Kanal Istanbul [project] is not this person’s issue, but ours,” Erdoğan said.
Meanwhile the Environment and Urbanization Ministry on Jan. 17 announced that it approved the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (ÇED) report.
İmamoğlu also commented on this issue, saying that the ministry’s decision did not come to him as a “surprise,” but that he would take this issue to the court.
“I will use my right to file a lawsuit regarding the ÇED report. I feel that that all Istanbul residents will have the devotion to use their right to appeal this plan until the end of this month,” he said.