Erdogan rejects Arab demands; says Turkish troops will stay in Qatar | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 25.06.2017
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Middle East

Erdogan rejects Arab demands; says Turkish troops will stay in Qatar

Turkish President Erdogan dismissed demands from Arab countries that Qatar shutter a Turkish-run base. He said the demands intruded on Qatar's sovereignty. The US called on all parties to tone down the rhetoric.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed a series of sweeping demands several Arab countries have made against their Gulf neighbor Qatar, including that the emirate shut down the Turkish military base on its territory.

Speaking Sunday after Eid prayers in Istanbul, Erdogan called the demand regarding the base "disrespectful." Turkey, he said, would not seek permission from others in making its defense cooperation agreements.

In 2014, the Turkish parliament ratified an agreement that allows Ankara to deploy its troops to the base in Qatar.

Erdogan said the Arab states 13-point list of demands on Qatar contradicted international law. He also reaffirmed Turkey's commitment to its Gulf-state ally in light of the sanctions being imposed on it.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt announced a series of sweeping economic and diplomatic sanctions against their Sunni-Arab neighbor. Then on Thursday, the Arab quartet issued a series of demands on Qatar - including closing the Al-Jazeera television network, paring back relations with Iran, closing the Turkish military base and paying reparations - in order to have the sanctions lifted.

Grenze Katar / Saudi-Arabien (Getty Images/AFP/K. Jaafar)

A comprehensive land embargo against Qatar has rendered its border with Saudi Arabia a virtual ghost town

Erdogan reinforces support

Qatar has called the demands unreasonable, and Erdogan has reinforced Turkey's support for the embattled emirate.

"We approve and appreciate the attitude of Qatar against the list of 13 demands," said Erdogan, speaking outside a mosque in Istanbul. "This approach of 13 demands is against international law because you cannot attack or intervene in the sovereignty of a country."

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on the quarreling Arab states to begin a dialogue aimed at trying to work out their differences.

"A productive next step would be for each of the countries to sit together and continue this conversation," Tillerson said in a statement. "We believe our allies and partners are stronger when they are working together towards one goal which we all agree is stopping terrorism and countering extremism."

He said the US supports Kuwait's mediation efforts, and added, "A lowering of rhetoric would also help ease the tension."

Turkey, the most powerful country in the region still supporting Qatar, has sent 100 cargo planes carrying supplies since Qatar's despite the neighbors announced a blockade of sea and air routes in the country.

Two contingents of Turkish troops, accompanied by columns of armored vehicles have arrived at the military base within the past three weeks, and Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said on Friday that further reinforcements would be beneficial.

"The strengthening of the Turkish base would be a positive step in terms of the Gulf's security," he said. "Re-evaluating the base agreement with Qatar is not on our agenda."

Hurriyet, a leading Turkish newspaper, reported that joint military exercises with Qatari forces are expected after the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday, which began Sunday.

The number of Turkish soldiers could eventually be ramped-up to 1,000, and an air force contingent is also possible, according to the paper.

Still, Ankara has stopped short of directly criticizing Saudi Arabia's actions, merely calling on Riyadh to take a leading role in solving the crisis.

bik/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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