Turkey’s defense minister is rebuffing demands from Arab nations to close his country’s military base in Qatar.
Defense Minister Fikri Isik told Turkish news station NTV that the base in Qatar will remain open and slammed the call by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to close the base as an “interference in bilateral ties,” according to Al Jazeera.
Fikri said the base is vital to protecting Turkish security interests in the region.
“The base in Qatar is both a Turkish base and one that will preserve the security of Qatar and the region,” he said. “It is an important military base and no country should be disturbed by it.”
The controversy comes as Turkish and Qatari forces are preparing to conduct a joint security exercise, according to Al Jazeera, and is the latest flare-up in a tense standoff between Qatar and a block of Arab nations.
The crisis in the region began earlier this month when several countries abruptly severed diplomatic ties with Qatar.
The four Arab nations also presented a list of demands, including the closure of the Turkish base, according to a copy obtained by the Associated Press.
The list of demands also calls for Qatar to shut down the Al Jazeera news operation and its affiliate networks and to stop funding entities designated as terrorist groups by the U.S. government.
The list also demands that Qatar align itself militarily, politically, economically and socially with other Gulf nations.
Qatar has 10 days to comply with the demands, according to the AP.