Turkey refuses to pull out troops from Qatar, citing sovereign r


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan rejected calls from Arab nations for Turkey to close its military base in Qatar, vowing to continue to work with its Gulf-state ally in a speech today in Istanbul.

“We welcome [Qatar’s position] because we consider the 13-point list to be against international law,” Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported that Erdoğan told reporters on Sunday in Istanbul. “What we are talking about here is an attack on the sovereign rights of a state. There cannot be such an attack on countries’ sovereignty rights in international law.”

Qatar has been issued 13 demands which among other things include closing the Turkish military base, cutting relations with Iran, closing Al Jazeera television and paying reparations.

The US State Department had expressed in a Wednesday statement that “the list of demands will soon be presented to Qatar and will be reasonable and actionable.”

The Associated Press and Reuters each reported they were given the list from an unnamed official among the five Arab countries that isolated Qatar. Bahrain state news confirmed the demands on Sunday.

Turkey has been a powerful and outspoken regional ally of Qatar after the Arab countries cut diplomatic ties. In the past three weeks, Turkey has sent 100 cargo planes with supplies, as the four Arab nations have also cut all land, sea and air links to the country.

“This is an agreement signed by two sovereign states. This is an issue between two sovereign countries and it’s none of the business of others except for respecting to it. I told this openly to my brother, Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adil [al-Jubeyir], on the phone last night,” Hurriyet Daily News reported that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu told reporters on June 25 in Antalya.

The director of the Qatari’s communication office said the blockade was meant to “limit Qatar’s sovereignty and interfere in its foreign policy”, according to the official QNA news agency. 

“We are reviewing these demands out of respect for … regional security and there will be an official response from our ministry of foreign affairs,” Sheikh Yusuf Bin Ahmed reportedly said.

Diplomatic relations were cut with Qatar by four Arab neighbors including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on June 5 who accused the small oil-rich country of having ties with “terrorist organizations,” including the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hurriyet reported last week that a joint military exercise by Qatari and Turkish forces was expected following the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday which started today. The news agency also reported that Turkey aims to increase its military personnel in Qatar to approximately 1,000.

Turkey had also reportedly offered to establish a military base in neighboring Saudi Arabia, Erdogan said, but never received a clear answer regarding the movement.

“If Saudi Arabia wants us to have a base there, a step toward this also can be taken,” Erdogan stated, according to Hurriyet. “I made this offer to the king himself and they said they will consider this.

“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.”

Qatar is a strategic Gulf country where the United States has Al Udeid Air Base, its largest in the Middle East. Turkey has maintained a base in Qatar since 2014. Last year, Hurriyet reported 150 Turkish troops were stationed in Qatar. Turkey’s former ambassador to Qatar in late 2015 told Reuters that 3,000 ground troops could eventually be deployed.

“While some of the elements will be very difficult for Qatar to meet, there are significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to resolution,” stated US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a statement released on Sunday. 

“A lowering of rhetoric would also help ease the tension,” he added. “The United States will continue to stay in close contact with all parties and will continue to support the mediation efforts of the Emir of Kuwait.”

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