Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has defended his decision to accept a luxury plane from Qatar at a time of economic strife.
He reportedly said on September 17 that the Boeing 747 was a gift donated to the Turkish state, not to him personally.
State broadcaster TRT Haber reported last week that the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani had given Erdogan the aircraft.
An MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Sezgin Tanrikulu, had raised concern that the aircraft had been bought rather than donated, Hurriyet reported. However, Erdogan said that it was a pure gift.
The plane, which would normally carry 400 people, had been refitted to seat just 76, the newspaper added.
Erdogan said the emir donated the plane, worth around $500mn, to the Turkish state after hearing that Turkey was interested in purchasing it.
“He said, ‘I won’t take money from Turkey. I give this as a present to Turkey’,” Erdogan reportedly told journalists on a flight back from Azerbaijan at the weekend.
The president added to reporters that the plane was being repainted. Once it was ready “we will travel with it. But you will be getting on the plane of the Republic of Turkey, not my plane”, he was quoted as saying.
Turkey, mired in a currency crisis, is in the midst of a sharp economic downturn and is preparing a tough fiscal squeeze.
Qatar is Turkey’s chief Arab ally. In August, it approved a $15bn package of economic projects, investments and deposits in Turkey last month. The move was designed to boost the beleagured Turkish lira.
Turkey has stood by Qatar in its political dispute with fellow Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia. The Qataris are enduring a land, sea and air blockade, which both Iran and Turkey have helped to relieve with the provision of alternative air traffic routes and the establishment of trade flows bringing vital food supplies and other consumer items.
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