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Politics

Erdogan opens Turkish skyscraper with Ottoman influence in heart of N.Y.

Building reflects 'increased power,' president says

The new Turkevi, or Turkish House, sits across from United Nations headquarters in New York. (Anadolu Agency)

NEW YORK/ISTANBUL -- A roughly $300 million Turkish skyscraper rich in symbolism officially opened in New York on Monday, overshadowing its neighbors and the United Nations headquarters across the street.

Turkey's costliest foreign mission to date, Turkevi, or Turkish House, will serve as home to the country's permanent mission to the U.N. and its consulate general in New York, as well as diplomatic housing. It was constructed on the site of the previous, smaller building, bought from IBM in 1977.

Turkish planners made sure that the new 171-meter building exceeded the height of the neighboring United Nations Plaza, which houses the U.S. permanent mission to the U.N. Turkevi is 35 stories tall, according to the semiofficial Anadolu Agency.

Designed by New York-based architecture firm Perkins Eastman, with input from Turkey's Dizayn Group, the building features a top shaped like a tulip, the most revered flower in the Ottoman Empire.

The Turkish word for the flower is "lale," which becomes "Allah" when spelled out in the Ottoman-era alphabet. Also becoming a symbol of religion and the state itself, the tulip was widely cultivated during the 1718-30 reign of Ottoman Sultan Ahmed III -- the so-called Tulip era.

Turkevi is also curved at the edges to represent the crescent in the Turkish flag. The entrance area's design is inspired by the old Silk Road's caravansaries, or roadside inns, where weary travelers once stayed to rest and recover.

Caravansaries were popular in the Seljuk era, a Turkic dynasty that preceded the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opens the new building in New York on Sept. 20. (From the president's Twitter account)

The new building reflects Turkey's "increased power," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"We have reunited with the Turkish House, which contains motifs inspired by the Seljuk era and the tulip, which has an exceptional place in our culture," said Erdogan, who was in New York for the U.N. General Assembly.

"God willing, the building will serve for a long time as a symbol of Turkey's success stories," he said.

Erdogan's scheduled bilateral meetings with counterparts from the U.K., Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia and Finland are all being held at Turkevi.

A skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan symbolizes the ambitions of the Turkish president, who sees his country as a major regional power and is calling for U.N. Security Council reform to reflect the new reality.

One of Erdogan's favorite slogans is "the world is bigger than five" -- a reference to Security Council permanent members the U.S., Russia, China, U.K. and France.

Turkey has been projecting power in its neighborhood through the use of military drones, tilting wars in its favor in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus. But its diplomatic dealings have provoked the ire of fellow NATO members, such as purchasing S-400 anti-aircraft weapons from Russia.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: "We blend our power in the field with the power we have at the table."

Erdogan has vowed to give other leaders copies of his new book, "A Fairer World is Possible," which has been translated into English, Arabic and French.

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