Erdogan presidential palace cost soars for Turkey

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Ak Saray picture in the daytimeImage source, EPA
Image caption,
The Ak Saray dominates the skyline on the western edge of Ankara

A controversial new 1,000-room palace built for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will cost about £385m ($615m) - nearly twice the previous estimate, Turkish officials say.

Known as Ak Saray (White Palace), it was built on a forested hilltop on the edge of the capital Ankara, on more than 150,000 sq m (1.6m sq ft) of land.

Mr Erdogan opened the palace on 30 August after becoming president.

His AK Party has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
President Erdogan is pictured here at the foot of a staircase in the Ak Saray

The palace is bigger than the White House in Washington, the Kremlin in Moscow and even the Palace of Versailles near Paris.

Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek, quoted by Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper, said most of the 1.37bn Turkish lira ($615m) cost had been paid, but another $135m had been budgeted for it in 2015.

The palace has sumptuous marble corridors and atriums, as well as high-tech systems to prevent electronic eavesdropping.

Image source, AFP
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State-of-the-art technology was used in the palace project, officials say

Environmentalists accuse Mr Erdogan of spending public money on lavish construction projects to the detriment of green areas. Activists defending Istanbul's iconic Gezi Park clashed with police in June 2013.

Hurriyet says the palace project was controversial because hundreds of trees were cut down to make space for it, in what had been a forest reserve bequeathed to the nation by modern Turkey's founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The finance minister also said $185m would be spent on a new Airbus A330-200 presidential jet.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The palace is bigger than a host of more famous state buildings, including the Kremlin and Buckingham Palace

A presidential aide, Fahri Kasirga, said other presidential properties would be renovated next year, notably the Huber Palace in Istanbul and a guest house in Marmaris, on the Aegean coast.

Mr Erdogan has moved out of the more modest Cankaya Palace in Ankara, which will now be used by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The presidency was once a more ceremonial role than when Mr Erdogan took office