Turkey steps up support for Qatar, discusses Gulf tensions with Saudi



* Erdogan, Saudi leaders to step up efforts to ease tension
    * Turkey has sent 105 planes of supplies to Qatar
    * Ankara also sending 25 soldiers, armoured vehicles

 (Adds military statement)
    By Daren Butler and Tulay KaradenizISTANBUL/ANKARA, June 22 (Reuters) - Turkey sent a first
shipment of food supplies and a small contingent of soldiers and
armoured vehicles to Qatar on Thursday, officials said, while
President Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Saudi Arabia's leaders on
calming tension in the region.
   Turkey has backed Qatar after Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other
Arab states cut all economic and diplomatic ties this month,
accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, a charge it denies.
    Ankara 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. [nL8N1J61HQ]
    Five armoured vehicles and 23 military personnel arrived in
Doha on Thursday morning 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 cooperation 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 Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday,
Hurriyet said. The number of Turkish soldiers sent to the Gulf
state could eventually reach 1,000, it said, adding that an air
force contingent was also envisaged.
    Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said Turkey has so far sent
105 cargo planes of supplies, but that it was not sustainable to
maintain aid supplies through an air lift.
    "It is not economical or sustainable to send normal food
supplies by airplane," he told state-run Anadolu news agency on
Wednesday, adding that it was beginning to send aid by ships and
by road. He said that alongside food supplies, consumer durables
and household goods would also be sent.
    The first Turkish ship carrying some 4,000 tonnes of dry
food supplies, fruit and vegetables set off from a port in
western Turkey's Izmir province at dawn on Thursday, Anadolu
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.
    Ankara has sought to keep up good relations with the rest of
the Gulf and sources from Erdogan's office said he spoke by
phone overnight with Saudi Arabia'sKing Salman and new crown
prince Mohammed bin Salman, congratulating the latter on his
    "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 on Thursday. Erdogan and
King Salman agreed to hold face-to-face talks at the G20 meeting
in Hamburg next month, the sources said.
    King Salman made his son next in line to the throne on
Wednesday, handing the 31-year-old sweeping powers as the
kingdom seeks a radical overhaul of its oil-dependent economy
and faces mounting tensions with regional rival Iran.

 (Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing
by David Dolan and Richard Balmforth)
 ((daren.butler@tr.com; +90-212-350 7053; Reuters Messaging:


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