Erdogan inaugurates Turkey’s first airport on artificial island


– President declares opening infrastructure projects has given him ‘pleasure’ of serving nation and says he is a ‘servant not master’ to Turkey.

ORDU, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told how his recent tour of opening infrastructure projects has made him feel “not a master but a servant” to Turkey.

Speaking at the opening of Ordu-Giresun Airport, constructed on an artificial island off the Black Sea coast, on Friday, he said: “With these masterpieces I am now taking the pleasure of being not a master but a servant to this nation.”

The airport, which is the only artificial island airport in Europe, is due to process 2 million passengers a year, according to contractor Cengiz Holding’s website. Construction cost around 360 million Turkish liras ($132.6 million) and began in July 2011.

“Congratulations Ordu and Giresun, congratulations Black Sea,” Erdogan, who previously served three terms as premier, said. “During my prime ministerial term, we opened airports in Sinop, Kastamonu, Samsun. We are happy to open Ordu-Giresun airport now.”

Erdogan, who has made a number of speeches at inaugural ceremonies in the run-up to the June 7 general election, attacked the Hurriyet newspaper for running a website headline on May 16 that read “Death penalty for president who got 52 percent of votes.”

The headline was referring to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi but appeared under a photograph of Erdogan, who received 52 percent of the vote in last August’s presidential election.

“You cannot do anything to us,” he said, addressing the newspaper. “Why did you remove the headline after you received reactions? I say you [the people] should take a stance against these publishing groups.”

He added: “You gave a headline saying ‘He cannot even be a mukhtar [village chief]’ in 1998. Right, I did not become a mukhtar but since then I became prime minister and president.”

Speaking at the inauguration, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the ruling Justice and Development Party had expanded the airport network from 26 airports in 2002 to 53, with Ordu-Giresun becoming the 54th.

“The 55th airport will be opened next week in eastern border province of Hakkari,” he added.

The premier also emphasized that there were only one airlines in Turkey, national carrier Turkish Airlines, which flew to 24 cities in Turkey and 60 cities abroad from two centers.

“Turkey has become a center country. It now has six airlines which fly from seven centers to 56 destinations at home and 236 destinations across the world,” he said.

He added that the party aimed to expand the high-speed railway network to cover more than 3,500 kilometers (2,174 miles).

Earlier, Ordu-Giresun welcomed its first passengers when a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul with 136 passengers aboard touched down.

The artificial island was created by dumping around 35 million tonnes of rocks to fill a 1.8 million square meter (19.3 million square foot) area of sea.

State-of-the-art technology was used to prevent Black Sea waves from damaging the airport, while special material, called stone mastic asphalt, was used to build the runway.

Although only serving Istanbul and Ankara flights at the moment, the airport has plans to expand to 42 destinations.

The number of tourists and investors in the Black Sea region is expected to increase with the opening of the new airport.