Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin has participated in the opening ceremony of Moscow Central Mosque accompanied by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other foreign dignitaries on Wednesday.
The Moscow mosque is one of the biggest Muslim worshipping places throughout the Russian Federation with a capacity of more than 10,000 people. It has been rebuilt on the site of the capital’s old mosque which was able to take only 1,000 people following a decade of construction work.
Deputy Chairman of Russia's Council of Muftis Rushan Abbyasov said the construction has cost $170 million, speaking to the Moscow Times on Tuesday.
Top Russian-Muslim leader Ravil Gainutdin announced that the project has completely been funded by private donors which include Abbas who only donated $25,000 according to the Russian TASS news agency. Russia’s Dagestan-born billionaire Suleiman Kerimov has committed $100 million being the most generous donor.
Moscow's first mosque was built in 1904 and had been the single active house of worship during most of the communist era of the Soviet Union which was predecessor to the Russian Federation.
Erdogan drew attention to the Muslim victimisations in all around the world during his speech at the opening ceremony warning that Israel’s discriminatory policies against Palestinians and its violation of Al Aqsa Mosque’s holiness could create dangerous repercussions in the region.
“Particularly, all the humanity should be shamed by sad views of people who try to escape from the countries such as Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen which are near abroad to us, marching toward European borders,” he said.
Erdogan also repeated his call to world leaders to help refugees saying that the true resolution of the refugee crisis could not be “closing the border gates and leaving people dead at sea,” but making their respective countries livable.
Erdogan talks with Putin about Syria
Erdogan will also hold a meeting with his counterpart Putin during his visit to Russia in order to discuss mounting clashes of Syrian civil war increasingly measured by Russian military buildup to the country.
There have recently been various reports on tightening relations between Russia and the Assad regime which has recently been criticised by Erdogan.
Turkey has consistently defended to depose the Assad regime, backing opposition groups while Russia has supported the regime since the beginning of the conflict.
“Two million people have not come to Russia, but they have come to Turkey. We have spent about 6.5 billion dollars for [refugee crisis] until now,” Erdogan stated last Wednesday.
Erdogan said, “His main discussion with Putin [in Moscow] will be the Syrian question as they previously held talks on the issue in Baku,” on June 13, expressing that Turkish concern in connection with increasing Russian support to the Assad regime has reached a “high level,” speaking in a Turkish TV program on Tuesday night before leaving for Russia.
Although Turkey and Russia have substantially disagreed each other on Syrian politics, they have had a good relationship in terms of the energy sector until recent times. That relationship also seems to be in danger following the Russian state-controlled natural gas company Gazprom’s latest announcement concerning Turkish Stream.
Gazprom deputy chairman Alexander Medvedev announced in mid-September that Turkish Stream pipeline project will not be implemented by the end of 2016 as it has previously been planned because of continuing disagreements between Turkey and Russia.
Erdogan also signaled that he will discuss the issues surrounding Turkish Stream with Russian leader during his visit.