Turkey’s Chamber of Architects has penned a letter to Pope Francis, calling on him not to attend a ceremony set to be held at the country’s new presidential palace during his upcoming visit as the guest of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
Pope Francis is set to be the first house guest at the Presidential Palace, colloquially known as the Ak Saray (White Palace), on Nov. 28.
However, the managers of the Ankara branch of the Chamber of Architects have penned a letter to the Pope, including a report that details case documents and court decisions over the controversial construction of the new palace.
The architects asked the pope “not to legitimize the construction, which is illegal according to international laws, by attending the ceremony to be held at the unlicensed building.”
The Chamber of Architects Ankara Branch Head Tezcan Karakuş Candan said they would continue to write letters to all heads of state to prevent them from attending ceremonies at the “unlicensed palace.”
“We have taken the fight for the Atatürk Forest Farm to an international level. We will follow through on this and deliver our reports and letters to all foreign guests,” Candan said.
The Ankara branch has also requested that the Vatican Embassy give them an appointment.
On Feb. 2, 2012, the Ankara Regional Natural Reserves Commission reduced the size of the forest’s protected area to seven hectares, paving the way for the construction of an enormous complex. A previous court decision had ruled for a halt on the construction of a new Prime Ministry complex, citing violation of the principles of urban planning, ecology and science and adding that the completion of the project could “cause damage that would be hard to repair.”
The complex lies on a 150,000-square-meter area inside the historic Atatürk Forest Farm, one of the most well-preserved green spaces in Ankara, and hundreds of trees were cut down for its construction. It is equipped with a number of high-technology systems aimed at precluding eavesdropping with bugs and wires, and has a total of 1,000 rooms, considerably larger than the White House, the Kremlin and Buckingham Palace.
Controversy over the palace soared when Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek told a parliamentary budget committee last week that the total cost so far was 1.37 billion Turkish Liras ($615 million), around double the original price tag.