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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Erdogan says Uber 'finished' in Turkey

Turkish president wades into bitter dispute over ride-sharing app

Erdogan has said Uber is "finished"
Erdogan has said Uber is "finished"

Uber faces being banned in Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the ride hailing app was "finished" in his country on Saturday following intense lobbying by Istanbul taxi drivers.

Mr Erdogan's comments, in a late night speech on Friday in Istanbul, came after the government agreed on new rules that are expected to severely complicate Uber's operations in Turkey.

Drivers of Istanbul's yellow taxis have in recent months waged a campaign to have Uber banned, saying the company is eating into their business without having a proper legal basis for work.

"This thing emerged called Uber or Muber or whatever," said Mr Erdogan. "But this issue is now finished. It's over now.

"Our Prime Minister [Binali Yildirim] made the announcement. We have our system of taxis," he said.

Mr Yildirim's government last month issued a directive sharply increasing fines against, and threatening to blacklist, companies whose vehicles are used as taxis illegally.

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The official taxi drivers association said at the time the measure would be a major threat to Uber, provided it was properly enforced by traffic police.

Mr Erdogan said that while Uber might be popular in some European countries, Turkey was different.

"Why did it [Uber] emerge? Because it was in Europe," he said. "But what is Europe to me? We will take the decision ourselves."

His comments come three weeks ahead of keenly contested presidential and parliamentary elections. Many Istanbul taxi drivers are strong supporters of Mr Erdogan, and the main taxi associations back him.

After Mr Erdogan spoke, dozens of taxi drivers rallied to support him outside his private residence in the Uskudar district of Istanbul, the Dogan news agency said.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu backed up Mr Erdogan's comments, describing Uber as an "unauthorised carrier - in other words a pirate carrier".

"Turkey is a state of law. We don't need to say sorry for this. It [Uber] has not been given the authorisation to carry out taxi services," he was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The 17,400 official yellow taxis in Istanbul are a pillar of the city's often patchy transport system but critics say that poor service and overcharging opened up an opportunity for Uber.

However the taxi drivers have criticised Uber as "pirates" who are swallowing their incomes in an already tight market.

Uber drivers have been physically attacked and even shot at but taxi drivers deny being involved in a harassment campaign.

Uber said this week it is committed to working in Turkey "to the end" and insisted it is operating within the law.

It has expanded rapidly in Turkey and according to Turkish press reports there are more than 10,000 Uber vehicles in Istanbul.

The company did not comment on the situation on Saturday.

The tension in Turkey is one of a number of problems for Uber and its new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over last August after founder Travis Kalanick was ousted over a series of scandals.

Uber has lost its licence in London, although it is still operating there pending appeal. The company's self-driving car programme in the United States has suffered after one of its autonomous vehicles knocked over and killed a cyclist in Arizona in March.

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