Turkey throws support behind Qatar in rift with Gulf Arabs

Published: June 8, 2017
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Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani and Tayyip Erdogan. PHOTO: REUTERS

Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani and Tayyip Erdogan. PHOTO: REUTERS

ANKARA/DOHA: Turkey threw its support behind Qatar on Wednesday, with officials saying it could fast-track troop deployment and provide crucial food and water supplies to the Gulf Arab country facing isolation from some of the biggest Middle Eastern powers.

In the deepest split between Arab states for decades, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar on Monday and closed their airspace to commercial flights, saying it was funding militant groups. However, Qatar vehemently denies the accusations.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said isolating Qatar would not resolve any problems. Erdogan, who has long tried to play the role of a regional power broker, said Ankara would do everything in its power to help end the regional crisis.

UAE bans expressions of sympathy towards Qatar

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is visiting the region to discuss the stand-off.

Lawmakers from Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and the nationalist opposition MHP on Wednesday proposed bringing forward approval of a draft bill that will allow Turkish troops to be deployed to Turkey’s military base in Qatar, party officials told Reuters.

Turkey has maintained good relations with Qatar as well as several of its Gulf Arab neighbors. Turkey and Qatar have both provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Turkish parliament was also set to bring forward approval of a draft accord between the two countries on military training cooperation, the officials said.

Both bills, which were drawn up before the spat erupted, are expected to be approved by the Ankara parliament on Wednesday. Turkey’s lira weakened after the move.

FOOD AND WATER

Turkey’s main exporting industry body said it was ready to meet food and water supply demands from Qatar, after a Qatari official said Doha was in talks with Iran and Turkey to ensure trade disruptions did not create shortages.

Grain traders said Qatar appears to have a comfortable immediate supply of wheat.

“Qatar recently purchased about 20,000 tonnes of Russian milling wheat which according to my calculations has just arrived in past days or will arrive in coming days,” one European grain trader said.

The president of Qatar’s Chamber of Commerce was quoted on Wednesday by local media as saying Qatar had enough food stored in strategic reserves to last for a year.

“There will be no shortage of food and other products as more than 95 percent of imports from Qatar arrive by air and sea,” Qatari Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani said.

Qatar says Saudi-led move to bar citizens breach of rights

Turkey set up a military base in Qatar, its first such installation in the Middle East, as part of an agreement signed in 2014. In 2016, Ahmet Davutoglu, then Turkish prime minister, visited the base where 150 troops are stationed, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.

In an interview with Reuters in late 2015, Ahmet Demirok, Turkey’s ambassador to Qatar at the time, said 3,000 ground troops would eventually be deployed at the base, which was primarily to serve as a venue for joint training exercises.

The text of the draft bill, which includes the agreement between Qatar and Turkey on the base, shows the cooperation will be primarily about the modernisation of Qatar’s military institutions, as well as widening cooperation in training and joint war exercises.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Rex Minor
    Jun 8, 2017 - 12:43PM

    The Saudis and the Egyptians are isolating themselves in the region and the wider muslim majority world with their anti Qatari action. This is a regressive act of the 7th century and does not reflect a modern vision for the muslim youth. i folks.God bless Turkey for the solidarity action with the Qtar

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • Saleem
    Jun 8, 2017 - 1:52PM

    Turkey is a heavyweight in this game and Arab countries have to listen to him for their own survival. Saudi Arabia and UAE especially played a very dirty game against Qatar knowing well their own roles in supporting extremism around the world. If they are clean themselves then they will not be begging the US government to stop 911 Commission report going public.

    This conflict is helping no other but Israel. UAE worked with Israeli lobbyist in the US to generate misinformation about the role of Qatar and that created misgivings about the later. It’s going to come back and haunt UAE. It must end soon or there will be casualties besides Qatar!Recommend

  • Mohammed Mirza
    Jun 8, 2017 - 2:53PM

    These saudis,Emiratis,Egyptians and Emiratis are all hypocrites.Trump was the main cause of it. All these nations are worship America.Bottom line is they dont like this brotherhood group.Recommend

  • cautious
    Jun 9, 2017 - 6:09AM

    Erdogan has a terrible track record when it comes to foreign policy -that doesn’t bode well for Qatar. Recommend

  • Haris
    Jun 9, 2017 - 8:17AM

    With Qatar Turkey and Iran on one side and considering Pakistan being neutral, Saudis have successfully axed their own foot.Recommend

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