Erdogan opens new Istanbul Airport, planned to be world’s largest

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan center, along with other officials inaugurates the new airport in Istanbul. (AP)
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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and foreign dignitaries attend an inauguration ceremony for a new aviation hub in Istanbu. (AP)
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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan drives a car as he inaugurates a new aviation hub in Istanbul. (AP)
Updated 30 October 2018
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Erdogan opens new Istanbul Airport, planned to be world’s largest

  • Erdogan opened a new $11.7 bn airport outside Istanbul
  • The airport will be able to handle 90 mn passengers a year and can be expanded to accommodate as many as 200 mn

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday opened Istanbul’s new international airport, which his government says will eventually become the world’s largest.
“The new airport will be the pride of our country and an example to the world,” Erdogan said at a lavish opening ceremony featuring several heads of state.
At the inauguration — which coincided with the 95th anniversary of modern Turkey’s founding by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk — Erdogan also revealed that the airport would be named “Istanbul.”
“Istanbul is not only our biggest city but also the most valuable trademark of our country,” he said.
The airport, one of a number of mega-projects built under Erdogan’s rule, will be little used until next year after construction was marred by delays and a workers’ strike over poor conditions.
Erdogan has championed the 10.5-billion euro ($12-billion) project in his bid to make Istanbul a global travel hub linking Europe, Asia and Africa and turn flag carrier Turkish Airlines into an aviation giant.
But the airport will only offer flights to five destinations until an expanded opening on December 29, from when it is expected to handle up to 90 million passengers a year, rising to up to 200 million when all facilities are completed in 2028.
That would be nearly double the 103.9 million passengers moving through the world’s current busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson in the US city of Atlanta.
The opening ceremony was attended by several leaders including Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes.
The first flight from the new facility will be to the capital Ankara on Wednesday.
It had been thought the new facility would replace the city’s aging Ataturk Airport, but Erdogan said it would remain in service, including for events such as air shows, adding that its unused parts would be transformed into a “national park as promised.”
Planes and equipment are expected to be moved from Ataturk to the new facility for the expanded launch in late December.
“Ataturk Airport will continue to serve with the same name,” he added.
Erdogan called the new airport a “giant,” with officials saying that its 1.4 million-square meter terminal building was eight times larger than Ankara’s terminal.
“Moreover, 80 Eiffel Towers could be constructed with the steel of 640,000 tons used in the construction.”
When finished in 2028, it will have six runways and two terminals spread over 76 square kilometers (29 square miles). That would make it three times the size of Ataturk.
Authorities say a metro line will be built to link the airport, which is near the Black Sea coast on the European side of Istanbul, to the city center 35 kilometers (22 miles) away.
The airport will be one of the crowning jewels in Erdogan’s bid to transform Turkey’s infrastructure in time for the country’s centenary in 2023.
Other massive projects include a third bridge over the Bosphorus Strait connecting Istanbul’s Europe and Asia sides, opened in 2016, and a man-made canal to relieve pressure on the strait.
However critics have blasted Erdogan’s mega-projects as excessive and damaging to the environment, and the airport’s construction was hit by controversy.
Last month, hundreds of workers walked off the job to protest poor conditions and work-related deaths on the site.
Turkish authorities quickly cracked down, arresting hundreds, according to labor unions. Most were released without charge, but around 20 remain in prison.
Thirty workers have died on the site since construction began in 2015, according to Istanbul airport authorities. The unions say the real number is much higher.
Construction Union Insaat-Is announced on Twitter that another worker died from a fall on Sunday, just one day before the inauguration.
In his speech, Erdogan thanked the workers.


Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

Updated 23 January 2019
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Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

  • The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict
  • Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday vowed to coordinate their actions more closely in Syria.
“Cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a touchstone for Syrian peace and stability,” Erdogan said in translated comments at a joint press conference after their talks, which lasted around three hours.
“With our Russian friends we intend to strengthen our coordination even more.”
“We agreed how we’ll coordinate our work in the near future,” Putin said, calling the talks which included the countries’ defense ministers “effective.”
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as “dear friend,” saying that their countries “work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria.”
Erdogan used the same term for Putin and said “our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region.”
The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month about pulling 2,000 American troops out of Syria.
Putin said that if carried out, the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria “will be a positive step, it will help stabilize the situation in this restive area.”
Turkey has also welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal, but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces labelled terrorists by Ankara has upset ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan had said on Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by Trump.
The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.
Putin said Wednesday that Russia supports “establishing dialogue between Damascus officials and representatives of the Kurds.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week said that Damascus must take control of the north.
The northwestern province of Idlib earlier this month fell under the full control of a jihadist group dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The Russian foreign ministry said earlier Wednesday that the situation in the province remained of “serious concern.”
Putin said that the leaders discussed the situation in Idlib “in great detail today.”
“We have a shared conviction that we must continue jointly fighting terrorists wherever they are, including in the Idlib zone,” the Russian leader said.
Erdogan said that the countries will wage a “lengthy fight” in Syria.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the planned US pullout has led to another key step in Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control.
Kurdish forces who were left exposed by Trump’s pledge to withdraw have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.
The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.
Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran early this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017.
Putin said Wednesday the next summit would be held “in the near future” in Russia, saying the leaders still needed to agree the time and location with Iran.
The last meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani took place in Iran in September last year with the fate of rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.
Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered at a remarkable speed with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.