Erdoğan’s close business ally working on Istanbul canal preparations

Rönesans Holding, owned by Turkish billionaire Erman Ilıcak known for his close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is working on tenders for Kanal Istanbul, a shipping canal project designed to bypass Istanbul’s Bosporus Strait, Sözcü newspaper said on Monday.

Rönesans Holding, which operates as a construction contractor and real estate developer in 28 countries, built Turkey’s presidential palace and has a $4.3 billion contract with the Turkish government for the construction and leasing to the state of 12 large hospitals.

Earlier local media reports have alleged that a company related to Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Erdoğan's closest regional ally, has purchased land along the route of Kanal Istanbul, where the land's value would skyrocket with new zoning plans should the project be completed.

Erdoğan announced plans for Kanal Istanbul in 2011 before he was elected prime minister for a third term, but his government has not started the artificial waterway project in the eight years that followed

There is strong opposition to the project among some professional organisations and NGOs, which maintain that the canal would damage Istanbul’s last forested areas by encouraging development and harm marine life in the Marmara Sea.