On Thursday, Turkey is hosting a two-day summit of heads of state and government from Muslim-majority states, as Turkey prepares to take over the two-year rotating presidency of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Leaders and senior officials from the 56 OIC member states are in Istanbul, Turkey's financial hub and most densely populated city, to attend the 13th OIC Summit. Several streets, particularly those leading to the summit venue in the Harbiye district, will remain under a virtual shutdown, as security forces step up security measures for the summit, participants include the Saudi king and the Iranian president.
The summit started on April 10 with low-level meetings with officials from OIC countries, a meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday and a sideline event for youth delegates from member states. It kicks into high gear today, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan welcomes guests from around the globe.
Istanbul Atatürk Airport, one of the busiest aviation hubs with more than 61 million passengers last year, was also modified to host the incoming leaders. A special runway was allocated for the jets of kings, presidents and prime ministers. Guests will be shuttled from the airport, some 22 kilometers from the venue, in motorcades to their hotels, or to the Istanbul Congress Center where the summit will be held. Tight security measures were implemented at the airport ahead of the summit. Applications for charter flights are closed throughout the summit. Authorities allocated 500 vehicles for leaders and their delegations.
The Istanbul branch of the Turkish National Police started shutting down some streets last Saturday, and the shutdown will end on Friday after the summit participants leave. The route between Taşkışla Street in Harbiye and Kadırgalar Street remains closed to traffic. Sections of Gümüş, Mim Kemal Öke and Bayıldım streets leading to the event venue have also been closed to traffic, while traffic flow has been redirected to nearby alternative routes, such as Halaskargazi, Asker Ocağı, Abdi İpekçi and Valikonağı streets. Police also set up barricades and checkpoints on all roads leading to the event venue. Media outlets reported some 5,000 police officers would be deployed in Istanbul as part of security measures.
Authorities reassured the public that heavy traffic would be manageable, as alternative routes are expected to relieve congestion.
Preparations were wrapped up yesterday for the summit which 30 heads of state will attend. A special welcoming venue was set up outside the Istanbul Congress Center -the perimeters of which are closed to with only those attending or working at the summit permitted to enter.
Saudi King Salman is probably the highest profile guest at the summit. The Saudi monarch, accompanied by a large delegation of aides, will stay in a hotel overlooking the Bosporus, amid tight security.
Istanbul has been accustomed to summits in the past decade, as the country seeks to boosts its global standing and role in international politics. In May, the city will host the United Nations' first World Humanitarian Summit, which will focus on international humanitarian action and bring together world leaders seeking political solutions to conflicts, as well as establish commitments to reach out to people affected by conflicts.