Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.jpg

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Saturday to move forward with the construction of a controversial "historical monument" in Istanbul's Gezi Park area.

In 2013, a controversial plan to construct an Ottoman-era military barracks housing a shopping mall in Gezi Park sparked nationwide protests against the Turkish government when Erdogan was prime minister. Several people were killed in the unrest.

Erdogan, speaking in televised address in Istanbul, said the new construction plans would also include a corner dedicated to the history of foreign countries, citing Germany, France and the United States as examples, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Turkey has been angered by a recent vote in Germany recognizing the massacres of Christians during the final years of the Ottoman Empire as genocide. Ankara rejects the accusations.

Erdogan, urging "courage" in the construction project, said no one should "slander" the Turkish nation.

The Gezi Park demonstrations snowballed into a movement against Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), which were accused of gradually instituting authoritarian Islamic rule in the fiercely secular country.

The country has since faced several political crises, though Erdogan has managed to stay in power.

He was elected president in 2014 and now is seeking to change the constitution to gain more power, causing concern for the opposition that fears an erosion of check and balances and growing authoritarianism.

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