A conflict of interests between monarchies of the Persian Gulf continues developing. Seven Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia delivered an ultimatum to Qatar. If Doha unconditionally fulfills all 13 requirements of the ultimatum, the Saudis and their allies will be ready to consider issues to normalize relations with Qatar. Turkey acts as Qatar’s defender in the conflict and rejected the ultimatum at once.
The aggravation of the dispute around Qatar coincided with progress in the implementation of the Turkish Stream project which strengthens Ankara’s role in the region. Meanwhile, Washington is trying to revive another gas project, the South Stream, via Bulgaria to weaken Turkey’s control over gas exports from Russia to southern Europe.
The requirements from Saudi Arabia and its allies to Qatar include the following: termination of diplomatic relations with Iran, cessation of military cooperation with Turkey and the closure of the Turkish military base. In addition, Qatar was asked to close Al Jazeera TV channel, stop naturalizing citizens of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, break all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Hezbollah and other radical groups and stop financing terrorist organizations. To fulfill the ultimatum, Qatar has ten days.
Experts believe that Qatar is unlikely to fulfill all these conditions, taking into consideration the fact that the new Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, has driven Doha into a corner and does not even try to give Qatar a chance to save face. On Saturday, June 24, Qatar rejected the ultimatum from Riyadh. “We do not consider the requirements reasonable and feasible,” Sheikh Saif Al Thani, the press secretary of the Qatari government said.
The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Muhammad bin Abdurrahman Al-Thani announced that the boycott of Qatar was “an act of aggression.” According to him, abolishing the boycott is a prerequisite for starting negotiations to regulate the conflict. “Negotiations must be conducted on a civilized basis, not under conditions of boycott and pressure,” he said.
Unexpectedly, Turkey took a tough position in the Qatari crisis. Ankara refused to meet Saudi Arabia’s requirement to close its military base in Qatar. Turkish Defense Minister Fikr İşık said on Turkish television that “the Turkish base in Qatar ensures the security of Qatar and the whole region.” According to him, Turkey will view any requirement to close the base as “interference of the Gulf States in bilateral relations between Turkey and Qatar.” “Turkey is not going to revise the agreement with Qatar from 2014, on the basis of which the base was created,” he firmly said.
Five armored personnel carriers and 23 Turkish servicemen arrived in Doha several days ago. Turkey and Qatar intend to hold joint military drills soon. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ratified two agreements: to deploy an additional contingent of Turkish troops to Qatar and expand cooperation with Qatar in the field of military training. Turkey also pledged to provide food and water supplies to Qatar.
Erdogan’s decision comes as a proof of Ankara’s determination to create a military-political alliance with Qatar. Given the fact that Tehran also maintains warm relations with Qatar, a new geopolitical reality may appear in the Persian Gulf in the near future: the axis of Ankara-Tehran-Doha.
Meanwhile, the aggravation of the crisis around Qatar coincided with the geopolitical success of Russia and Turkey. The two countries have switched to practical steps in the implementation of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project. Vladimir Putin personally arrived in the Black Sea region, where he took part in a ceremony to connect the shallow and deep-water parts of the gas pipeline. Putin’s helicopter landed straight onto the deck of the Pioneering Spirit pipe-laying vessel.
When on board the pipe-laying vessel, Putin contacted Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the phone and congratulated him on the successful implementation of the project: “I’m calling you from the pipe-laying vessel, from the Black Sea – this is a huge vessel that started working at sea several days ago,” Vladimir Putin said. “Mr. President, I want to congratulate you on this, and I want to point out that the projects that we are developing with Turkey are development a lot better than with many of our other partners,” he added.
Experts note that the implementation of the Turkish Stream will turn Ankara into one of the main guarantors of energy security of Europe. Such a trend causes serious concerns in Washington: the relations between Turkey and the US have aggravated seriously. First of all, Ankara believes that Washington was the main instigator of the putschists, who made an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Erdogan in July 2016. In addition, Trump’s decision to start deliveries of heavy weapons to Syrian Kurds caused strong anti-American sentiments in Turkey, where Kurds are accused of separatism and terrorism.
Naturally, Washington fears that the Turkish Stream, if implemented successfully, will give Ankara a trump card in putting pressure on USA’s allies in Europe. This is one of the reasons why Bulgaria, Washington’s another obedient European vassal, received instructions to revive the South Stream project, from which Russia had refused. Gazprom disbanded the department, which was responsible for the implementation of the gas project in August 2016.
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev called Vladimir Putin and tried to convince the Russian leader to reanimate the South Stream project. Sofia now regrets its decision to curtail the implementation of the project under the pressure from Washington and Brussels. All of a sudden, as if on command, Hungary also turned to the South Stream project. However, the ship for Sofia and Budapest has sailed: it is Ankara that took the initiative, and Turkey will not lose an opportunity to implement the Turkish Stream project on time.
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