The plates have the district seal on them and are part of a set of around 500 plates that were a gift from a Turkish citizen to Mayor Anthony Williams during his second term from 2002-2007.
"They had not been used for years and would save money if put to good use," mayoral spokeswoman Doxie McCoy said.
The Washington Post said Saturday the re-gifting could actually cover some of the several thousand dollars the city spends on official gifts to high-level visitors at a time when budgets are tight.
The appropriateness apparently passes manners muster because the plates have the city seal on them, according to Robert Frye, former protocol officer for AT&T and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
"You want the gift to reflect something special about the city or the state," Frye told the Post. "Now, I wouldn't hand it over and say, 'We got these as a gift.' I wouldn't advertise that."