Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on June 9 vowed to stand by Qatar in a diplomatic row that erupted last week when several Gulf Cooperation Council member states, led by Saudi Arabia, cut ties with the Doha government over its alleged links to radical Islamist movements and what they describe as Qatar’s collaboration with their regional arch-rival Iran.
“We will not abandon our Qatari brothers and we will continue to provide every kind of support to Qatar,” Erdogan said in a speech he delivered in Istanbul at an iftar fast-breaking dinner, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Erdogan, who said he believes the isolation of the Doha government won’t resolve any problems in the region, repeated his earlier call for ending the blockading of Qatar.
Turkey’s parliament on June 7 fast-tracked legislation allowing more troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar.
Meanwhile, BloombergHT reported on June 12 that Turkish food supplies, carried by cargo jets, have arrived in Qatar which is being blockaded by land, air and sea. Turkey has sent poultry products, milk and yoghurt. Iran has also started sending cargo plane deliveries of food to Qatar.
In his speech in Istanbul, Erdogan also dismissed allegations regarding Qatar’s links to terrorism.
“I have never seen Qatar give support to terror”, the Turkish president said on June 9, hours after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain blacklisted dozens of Qatar-linked individuals and institutions.
The four Arab nations designated 59 individuals and 12 institutions that they claim have financed terrorist organisations and received support from Qatar, Al Arabiya reported on June 9.
“Turkey has come under pressure because it stands up against the global powers that try to redesign the region,” deputy chairman of the ruling AKP Mahir Unal said on June 11. Unal’s view is widely shared among pro-government newspapers and intellectuals.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump once again slammed Doha for supporting terror groups. “The nation of Qatar unfortunately has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” Trump told reporters at the White House on June 9, Reuters reported.
As part of Turkey’s intense diplomatic efforts to ease tensions in the region, Erdogan met with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa on June 9 in Ankara while Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed the crisis in the Gulf with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call.
“President Erdogan told the Bahraini minister [during the meeting] that this tragic event – contradicting our religion, beliefs and traditions – should be resolved by the end of the holy month of Ramadan,” Cavusoglu told reporters, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
Cavusoglu also said at a joint press conference with his Bahraini counterpart that “Turkey will pursue constructive efforts to resolve this crisis because we see the stability and security in Gulf region as our own. We look at the threats against the Gulf region as they are against us.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, too, urged more diplomatic efforts to end the crisis while her foreign minister warned that the Qatar crisis could lead to a war.
Merkel said on June 9 that she was concerned about the situation in Qatar, Reuters reported. She added that all Gulf nations, and also Iran and Turkey, should work together to resolve the regional dispute.
“There is a danger that this dispute could lead to war,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on June 10, according to Reuters.
Gabriel said personal talks this week with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, and phone calls with the foreign ministers of Iran and Kuwait underscored his concerns.
“After my talks this week, I know how serious the situation is, but I believe there are also good chances to make progress,” he added.
At the moment, Turkey is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: The Ankara government simultaneously has thrown its weight behind the Doha government and is engaged in intense diplomacy to reduce tensions.
Turkey has also developed good political and economic relations with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Erdogan visited the Saudi kingdom, Qatar and Bahrain in February as part of his four-day tour of Gulf states.
It remains to be seen whether Turkey’s diplomatic efforts will be successful and help Ankara boost its image across the region as a peacemaker or if its support for Qatar will eventually pitch Turkey against the other Arab states which want to isolate the Doha government.