Qatari defence minister visits Turkey as Trump and Erdogan discuss crisis

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Abu Dhabi // Donald Trump spoke to Turkey’s president on Friday to discuss the dispute between Qatar and four fellow Arab states which accuse it of supporting terrorism.

The White House said the US president and Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked about ways to resolve the dispute “while ensuring that all countries work together to stop terrorist funding and to combat extremist ideology”.

Turkey has backed Doha in its rift with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, which cut all ties with Qatar last month.

The four countries last week presented Qatar with a list of 13 conditions for ending their boycott, and set a 10-day deadline.

Mr Trump, who has also accused Qatar of funding terrorism “at a very high level”, has tasked his secretary of state with helping resolve the biggest crisis among Washington’s Gulf Arab allies. The US state and defence departments have taken a more neutral stance, and secretary of state Rex Tillerson cautioned that it would be “very difficult” for Doha to meet all of the demands.

Qatar’s defence minister visited Ankara on Friday, just days before the deadline for the demands, which include the closure of a permanent Turkish military base near Doha.

Khalid Al Attiyah met his Turkish counterpart, Fikri Isik, at the Turkish defence ministry, Turkey’s state news agency reported.

Mr Erdogan accelerated planned troop deployment to the Turkish base, which was set up last year, three days after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5.

On Friday Al Jazeera reported the arrival of more Turkish troops at the base, citing the Qatari defence ministry. Both countries say the troops are there to conduct training and joint exercises with Qatari forces.

Turkish officials have said the base could house up to several thousand troops. The deployment of more Turkish forces has been widely perceived to be intended as a deterrent against any military moves or attempts at regime change in Qatar, which is Ankara’s closest Gulf ally.

Turkish officials have said they will not close the base in Qatar and Mr Erdogan last week said the demand to shutter the base was “disrespect to Turkey”.

Turkey has also stepped up exports of food and other goods to Qatar, along with Iran, to make up for the severing of trade links with Saudi and the UAE.

Saudi and UAE officials have said Turkey’s troop deployment amounts to a military escalation of the crisis. Riyadh’s ambassador to Ankara, Walid Al Khuraiji, told Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper on Friday that “any regional forces are mistaken if they think that their intervention will solve the issue, and we expect these forces to respect the existing regional order”, in a reference to the Turkish base.

“We hoped that Ankara would stay impartial for the sake of keeping good relations with all the Gulf countries,” Mr Al Khuraiji said, adding that Ankara had “lost its neutrality as an unbiased party seeking mediation”.

Also on Friday, the office of the UN human rights commissioner said Qatari media had presented “inaccurate accounts” of a meeting on Thursday between Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and the Qatari permanent representative to the UN in Geneva. It said the reports “significantly distort” Mr Al Hussein’s remarks.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae



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