Turkish president urges Saudi Arabia to act like the ‘Custodian of the Two Holy Places’ in Gulf diplomatic row.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has requested the full removal of a Saudi-led blockade of Qatar after approving the deployment of Turkish troops there, saying Riyadh needed to put brotherhood ahead of animosity.
Erdogan said isolating Qatar would not resolve any regional problems and vowed to do everything in his power to help end the regional crisis.
“We will not abandon our Qatari brothers,” Erdogan told members of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party at a fast-breaking meal on Friday in Istanbul during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“I also have a special request from the Saudi administration. You are the largest and most powerful state in the Gulf. We call you the Custodian of the Holy Places. You especially should work for brotherhood, not animosity. You have to work for bringing brothers together. This is what we expect from Saudi, the Custodian of the Holy Mosques.
“I say it should be lifted completely,” Erdogan said of the embargo.
Late on Thursday, a joint statement by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the UAE accused 59 individuals and 12 charity organisations in Qatar of being “linked to terror”.
Speaking about the allegations, Erdogan said: “There is no such thing. I know those foundations.”
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt severed relations with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting “extremists” and their arch-adversary Iran – charges Qatar calls “baseless”. Several countries followed suit.
The four countries also imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar that precluded food shipments and led to cancellation of flights
Turkey, which has maintained good relations with Qatar, as well as several of its Gulf Arab neighbours, offered food and water supplies to stave off possible shortages.
“There are those who are uncomfortable with us standing by our Qatari brothers, providing them with food. I’m sorry, we will continue to give Qatar every kind of support,” Erdogan said, adding that he had never witnessed Doha supporting “terrorism”.
On Wednesday, Turkey’s parliament ratified two deals on deploying troops to Qatar and training the Gulf nation’s security forces.
The deal to sendTurkish soldiers in Qatar, aimed at improving the country’s army and boosting military cooperation, was signed in April 2016 in Doha.
“The ratification of the military treaties is not an anti-Saudi move at all,” Can Kasapoglu, a defence analyst from Turkey’s EDAM, told Al Jazeera. “Turkey still sticks to ‘I don’t want problems between my two good friends’ policy.
“Yet, although this is not an anti-Saudi position, it is a pro-Qatari one for sure. Ankara prioritised its geopolitical perspective, and showed that it holds its military presence [in Qatar] above the recent diplomatic crisis.”
After an initial deployment of Turkish soldiers at a base in Doha, Turkish fighter jets and ships will also be sent, the mass-circulation Hurriyet newspaper said on its website on Friday.
“The number of Turkish warplanes and Turkish warships going to the base will become clear after the preparation of a report based on an initial assessment at the base,” Hurriyet said.
A Turkish delegation would go to Qatar in the coming days to assess the situation at the base, where about 90 Turkish soldiers are currently based, it said.
Turkish officials were not available to comment on the report, but Hurriyet said there were plans send some 200 to 250 soldiers within two months in the initial stage.