Senior AKP official denies opposition claims about Atatürk Airport falling out of use

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Deputy Chairman of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Numan Kurtulmuş has denied claims by the main opposition party that Atatürk Airport in İstanbul, where demolition started last week, will be completely demolished and no longer used as an airport, local media reported on Saturday.

Atatürk was the primary airport in İstanbul before the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) decided to build a third airport in the city. It was closed on April 7, 2019, with the opening of the larger, $12 billion İstanbul Airport, though with much controversy.

Later, the government decided to build a pandemic hospital at the old airport, destroying two runways in the process.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had also announced that they would build a “nation’s garden” in its place, but no move had been made in that direction until recently.

Demolition started again at the airport last week to build the garden as part of a project funded by the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change, which sparked protests by opposition parties.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu told the press that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had plans to sell the new İstanbul airport to their “Qatari and Saudi Arabian collaborators” and were only taking the step of establishing a nation’s garden in place of Atatürk Airport because the buyers did not want any other airports in the area.

Speaking during a program on CNN Türk, the AKP’s Kurtulmuş on Friday denied the claims, saying they would preserve “at least one of the runways” at Atatürk.

“It’s not true that Atatürk Airport will be closed to flights. … At least one of the runways will be preserved. The claim that it will be [totally] open to construction is a lie,” Kurtulmuş said.

İstanbul Airport replaced the old Atatürk Airport as the global hub of Turkish Airlines in 2019.

Hailed as the “pride of our country and an example to the world” by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the new airport, one of the mega-projects built under Erdoğan’s two-decade rule, handled 37 million passengers last year, making it Europe’s busiest for the second year running.

But opponents have criticized the airport’s location, which is near the Black Sea coast and 35 kilometers (22 miles) away from the city center, exposing it to fog and strong winds.

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