In the middle of the diplomatic crisis, Qatar has found an ally in Turkey. The country has strongly criticised the measures against Qatar after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar over allegations that the Gulf nation backs terror groups and that its policies, including its support for Islamist groups, threatens the region. The Yemen government, Libya’s eastern-based government and Maldives too followed suit.
While Qatar strongly denies its support to the terror groups, Turkey on other hand, which is a strong backer of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, has authorised the deployment of additional troops to Qatar in a show of support. Turkey also sent additional supplies of dairy products to Qatar’s capital, Doha, after Saudi Arabia sealed shut Qatar’s only land border, impacting a significant source of food imports.
According to The Wall Street Journal, for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, this diplomatic standoff has personal implications. The report added that if Qatar’s autonomy is crushed, then Turkey could feel the “international pressure”.
“Whatever Qatar is accused of, Turkey can also be accused of, and Erdogan is aware of that. There is a sense in the Turkish leadership that they are aiming at Qatar but really are trying to target us,” Asli Aydintasbas, a Turkey specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations, was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal.
Describing the blockade on Qatar as “inhuman”, Erdogan compared it to a “death sentence”, reported the BBC. Turkey went ahead and passed a bill that allowed deployment of Turkish troops in Qatar, added the report.
According to The Guardian, Erdogan told members of his party, “We will not abandon our Qatari brothers.”
In fact, after the failed coup last year, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, was one of the first leaders to call Ergodan. As per the BBC report, “150-strong elite unit of Qatari special forces” were sent for Erdogan’s protection after the attempted coup.
Both Qatar and Turkey does not classify the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas as “terrorist organisations”, they have a similar stand on Iran and have extended support to the Islamist groups to fight against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s regime. As per the BBC report, apart from the defence cooperation, Qatar has been making heavy investments in Turkey.
Meanwhile, ties between Saudi Arabia and Turkey have begun to fray due to sharply different policies toward Qatar. An Arabic hashtag on Twitter has also appeared calling for Saudis to cut ties with Turkey.
Erdogan raised eyebrows over the weekend when he said King Salman agreed to consider an offer to establish a Turkish military base in the kingdom alongside a Turkish base in Qatar.
In an interview aired Thursday with Portuguese broadcaster RTP, Erdogan said work on the Turkish base in Qatar began in 2014 with the aim of supporting regional security. Erdogan added that he had previously raised the possibility of a Turkish base in Saudi Arabia and said the Saudi king agreed to consider the offer, reported AP.
The official Saudi Press Agency released a statement Saturday strongly rejecting any such offer.
“Saudi Arabia cannot allow Turkey to establish military bases on its territories,” the statement, adding that the country “has no need for this.”
Ties between Saudi Arabia and Turkey had become strained under King Salman’s predecessor over Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood during the height of Arab Spring protests. Those ties, however, began to improve under Salman after he aligned Saudi Arabia closer with Turkey and other Sunni Muslim countries in a bid to counter Shiite-ruled Iran.
According to Al-Jazeera, Turkey’s support for Qatar is a clear departure from its “soft power” policy towards its neighbours. The report added that this move could be seen as Turkey’s attempt to end the over-dependence on its western allies.
The report adds: “As Ankara looks to stretch its military presence across Arab and African soil, a deepening strategic alliance with Qatar – one of the world’s largest exporters of natural gas – fits the country’s foreign policy aspirations and boosts its $857 billion economy.”
Leaders and experts in Turkey believe that Turkey could be the next target in a move is which is likely to be orchestrated by the Gulf countries with US president Donald, according to Sputnik.
With inputs from AP