Turkey sent its first ship carrying food aid to Qatar and despatched a small contingent of soldiers and armoured vehicles yesterday, while President Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Saudi Arabia’s leaders on calming tension in the region, Reuters reports.
Turkey has backed Qatar after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut all economic and diplomatic ties earlier this month.
Ankara also fast-tracked legislation on June 7 to allow more troops to be deployed to a military base in Qatar that houses Turkish soldiers under an agreement signed in 2014.
Five armoured vehicles and 23 military personnel arrived in Doha yesterday as part of the new deployment plans, Turkey’s armed forces said in a statement, adding that the move was in the framework of legal measures regarding military training and co-operation between the two countries.
Some 88 Turkish soldiers were already in Qatar, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.
After the deployment, a joint exercise by Turkish and Qatari forces was expected following the Eid al-Fitr holiday, Hurriyet said. The number of Turkish soldiers sent to Qatar could eventually reach 1,000, it said, adding that an air force contingent was also envisaged.
In a statement yesterday, the Directorate of Moral Guidance at Qatar’s Ministry of Defence announced that “the second group of Turkish soldiers arrived in Qatar on Thursday morning and would participate to join the forces that began training tasks here on Sunday”, as reported by the official Qatar News Agency.
Meanwhile, the first Turkish ship carrying some 4,000 tonnes of dry food supplies, fruits and vegetables set off from a port in western Turkey’s Izmir province at dawn yesterday, state-run Anadolu news agency said. It cited the head of the logistics company delivering the supplies as saying it was expected to arrive in Doha in around 10 days.
Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci also said his country has exported 5,000 tonnes of food on board scores of cargo planes since the start of the Qatar blockade.
In supporting Qatar, Turkey was not trying to threaten anyone, Erdogan’s spokesman said.
“We don’t want any sort of tension with any Gulf state. We would also not want any of them to be in a row with each other. This has been our approach to this crisis since the beginning,” Ibrahim Kalin told reporters yesterday.
“In other words, if two of your friends, two neighbours are disagreeing with each other and if there is something you can do about this, it is perfectly natural to go into action.”
Sources from Erdogan’s office said the president spoke by phone overnight with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and the new Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman, congratulating the latter on his promotion.
“Agreement was reached on increasing efforts towards ending tension in the region related to Qatar,” the sources said in a statement regarding the phone calls yesterday. Erdogan and King Salman agreed to hold face-to-face talks at the G20 meeting in Hamburg next month, the sources said.