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ISTANBUL: Turkey has approved development plans for a huge canal on the edge of Istanbul, Environment Minister Murat Kurum said on Saturday, advancing a project which has attracted criticism over its cost and environmental impact.

The step came a year after Turkey held its first tender for the reconstruction of two historic bridges in its largest city where the 45km (28 miles) Kanal Istanbul, championed by President Tayyip Erdogan, is set to be dug.

"We have approved the Kanal Istanbul Project development plans and put them out for public consultation. We will rapidly take steps to enrich our country and sacred city with Kanal Istanbul," Kurum wrote on Twitter.