The head of the Qatari-based Alnoor Holding has challenged an official from the İstanbul Municipality who tweeted in Arabic that the city has withdrawn from a protocol for the construction of an artificial waterway in İstanbul, saying that Qatar would continue to buy land around the canal.
İstanbul Municipality spokesperson Murat Ongun said in his tweet in Arabic: “To whom it may concern, the İstanbul Municipality has withdrawn from the Kanal İstanbul Protocol.”
Ongun was apparently taking aim at Qataris, who are claimed to have purchased land around the site of Kanal İstanbul, the value of which is expected to skyrocket if the project is realized.
The current İstanbul Municipality administration is strongly against the Kanal İstanbul project, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dubbed his “crazy project.” The project, an artificial sea-level waterway bisecting the European side of İstanbul to connect the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean, is scheduled to be completed by 2023.
Qatari media boss and the head of Alnoor Holdings Abdullah bin Ahmed al Hashimi responded to Ongun’s tweet in Turkish and Arabic and said: “We will continue to buy land around Kanal İstanbul. We will continue to support the Turkish economy.”
According to Turkish media reports, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the mother of the current emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, purchased 11 acres of land around the area where the channel will be constructed.
Last month İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), announced that the municipality had withdrawn its support for the protocol governing the construction of Kanal İstanbul that was signed by the former mayor of İstanbul, who was a member of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
İmamoğlu was elected mayor of İstanbul in a repeat election held on June 23, ending AKP rule in city for more than 15 years.
Environmentalists have voiced serious concerns about the channel, arguing that it will damage underground water sources in İstanbul and will threaten the Marmara Sea as well as leading to even greater urbanization in the city.