LONDON: The Turkish opposition have ‘questioned the honor’ of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the leader admitted accepting a luxury jumbo jet as a “gift” from Qatar.
Erdogan has come under intense pressure after it emerged he had received the $400 million jet from Doha. The opposition initially claimed the plane had been bought for the presidency with public funds.
On Monday, Erdogan said Turkey had shown interest in buying the Boeing 747-8 plane but Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani insisted on offering the plane as a gift, AFP reported.
“We were interested. When the Qatar emir was informed of this he gave it as a gift, saying ‘I won’t take money from Turkey. I will give this plane as a gift,’” Erdogan said.
The Turkish president insisted that while the jet would be used for his trips, “the plane is not mine, it is the Turkish Republic’s,” he said while returning from a visit to Azerbaijan.
But Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) hit back at Erdogan over the move to accept such a gift.
“How can it not cause you discomfort?” Kilicdaroglu said on Monday.
Erdogan said that once the paintwork was finished he hoped to use the plane for travel.
Reports said the giant plane, which was part of Tamim’s personal fleet, is equipped for only 76 passengers and has lounges and boardrooms.
Erdogan’s remarks came after criticism last week by MPs from the opposition, who claimed Erdogan had bought the plane.
CHP MP Gamze Tascier said on Twitter that a sales official from a company based in Switzerland confirmed the sale of a Boeing 747-8 jet. “The company says it was sold, supporters say it was a gift,” she said on Thursday.
The plane shows the increasingly close relationship between Doha and Ankara, particularly since Saudi Arabia and Arab countries launched a boycott more than a year ago of Qatar over its links to extremist groups.
Doha looked to Turkey and Iran in response to ship in food, goods and supplies. Qatar and Turkey also sided with Islamist groups during the Arab Spring protests in country’s like Egypt and Libya.
Last month, Doha promised to make a $15 billion direct investment in Turkey after a spat with Washington, which saw the lira’s value fall drastically against the dollar.