Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has defended Qatar after Saudi Arabia and several other countries severed diplomatic ties with it for supporting Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
President Erdogan is the Chairman of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Ironically, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Maldives are members of the OIC.
“Let me say at the outset that we do not think the sanctions against Qatar are good,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara. “Turkey will continue and will develop our ties with Qatar, as with all our friends who have supported us in the most difficult moments,” he added alluding to last year’s failed coup.
Erdogan was careful not to criticize Riyadh, calling on the member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council to “resolve their differences through dialogue.” “Efforts to isolate Qatar … will not solve any problem,” said Erdogan, praising Doha’s “cool-headedness” and “constructive approach”.
Qatar is a member of the six-state Gulf Cooperation Council. Other GCC members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
President Erdogan on Monday held phone calls with leaders of several Muslim and Western countries in a bid to find a solution to the diplomatic row between Qatar and five Arab states. “Our President, as the current head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, got actively involved in this [Qatar row] by having phone calls with both some Islamic countries and some Western countries, to resolve the issue,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said
The Kremlin press service said on Monday Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan discussed the situation in a phone call, urging all involved sides to engage in a dialogue to “develop compromise solutions in the interest of preserving peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region.”
Turkish parliament approves troop deployment in Qatar
Turkey’s parliament on Wednesday approved a draft bill allowing its troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar, an apparent move to support the Gulf Arab country when it faces diplomatic and trade isolation from Saudi Arabia and few other states.
The Turkish bill, drafted before the rift, passed with 240 votes in favor, largely with support from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and nationalist opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Officials from the AKP and MHP said the legislation would allow troops to be deployed to a Turkish base in Qatar, amid reports Turkey is also set to offer food and emergency supplies to the country.
Turkey set up a military base in Qatar, its first such installation in the Middle East, as part of an agreement signed in 2014. In 2016 Ahmet Davutoglu, the then Turkish prime minister, visited the base where 150 troops have already been stationed, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.
In an interview with Reuters in late 2015, Ahmet Demirok, Turkey’s ambassador to Qatar at the time, said 3,000 ground troops would eventually be deployed at the base, planned to serve primarily as a venue for joint training exercises.
Trump speaks to Qatar’s emir
Trump spoke with the emir of Qatar on Wednesday and offered help in resolving the crisis, the White House said. “The president emphasized the importance of all countries in the region working together to prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and stop the promotion of extremist ideology” in his call with the emir, the White House said. Trump offered to help resolve the diplomatic crisis, including through a White House meeting.
The US president also spoke by telephone on Wednesday with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and stressed the importance of unity among Gulf Arab states, the White House said.
Trump “emphasized the importance of maintaining a united Gulf Cooperation Council to promote regional stability, but never at the expense of eliminating funding for radical extremism or defeating terrorism,” during a call with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, the White House said in a statement.
The US Connection
Interestingly, the On May 21 President Donald Trump attends the first American-Islamic Summit. Next day, former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates launched a scathing assault on Qatar, criticized its support for “Islamists”, at an event hosted by the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). “Tell Qatar to choose sides or we will change the nature of the relationship, to include downscaling the base,” Gates said.
According to Al Jazeera, the night before Gates was scheduled to speak at a high-profile Washington conference on Qatar, the UAE’s ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, using a nickname of UAE Crown Prince Muhammed bin Zayed emailed Robert Gates asking him to “give them hell”.
On May 24, Qatar News Agency was targeted by hackers with “fake” comments purportedly criticising US foreign policy attributed to Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Qatar News Agency (QNA) platforms that sparked a regional media war. Qatar denied the statement attributed to the emir, purportedly criticizing US foreign policy. The emir’s false remarks were picked up by Saudi and UAE media.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived in Doha after the Qatari government asked the United States for help following the security breach by hackers the previous month on its official media platform, QNA.
Hackers released the first series of emails which were taken from the inbox of the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, including the email to Robert Gates on May 22.
The Intercept reported that the emails, released by a group called “Global Leaks”, show a close relationship between the UAE ambassador Otaiba and a pro-Israel, neoconservative think-tank – the FDD.
France says Qatar must answer to neighbours in diplomatic row
France on Wednesday appeared against Qatar in its diplomatic rift with some fellow Arab states by saying the Gulf nation needed to be transparent and answer the questions its neighbors had asked it.
“Qatar must be completely transparent and answer precisely the questions that have been asked notably by its neighbors. That’s what France is asking for,” government spokesman Christophe Castaner told reporters in a weekly briefing.
“It’s not about taking sides. We are a country that is friends with these states and with which our cooperation is historic and deep, so we call on all parties to reconnect and to achieve that the questions have to be answered.”
Castaner was responding to a question on whether Paris agreed with the accusation by the Saudi-led group.
New President Emmanuel Macron, who said during his election campaign he would be attentive to accusations that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar financed Islamist militants, spoke to Qatari and Emirati leaders on Wednesday.
He said that it was important to preserve stability in the Gulf region but that Paris would be uncompromising in fighting terrorism.
“There are economic matters at stake for our companies in all these countries,” Castaner said. “It’s important for France to stay in the circle of partnership with all those countries.”
Saudi FM: Qatar must stop backing Hamas, Brotherhood
Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister insisted on Tuesday, Qatar must end its support for the Palestinian group Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood before ties with other Arab Gulf states could be restored.
“We want to see Qatar implement the promises it made a few years back with regard to its support of extremist groups, to its hostile media and interference in affairs of other countries,” Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said.
Jubeir added that Qatar was undermining the Palestinian Authority and Egypt in its support of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“We don’t think this is good. Qatar has to stop these policies so that it can contribute to stability in the Middle East,” he said.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com