Erdogan rejects demand to pull Turkish troops from Qatar

Turkey’s president Erdogan condemns Saudi Arabia order as ‘disrespectful behaviour’

Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters as he leaves a mosque after the Eid al-Fitr prayers in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday. Photograph: Murad Sezer/Reuters

Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters as he leaves a mosque after the Eid al-Fitr prayers in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday. Photograph: Murad Sezer/Reuters


Turkey’s president has described as disrespectful a demand by Saudi Arabia and its allies that it withdraw its troops from Qatar as a step towards ending a deepening dispute with the besieged Gulf state.

Two days after the demand was made, Recep Tayyip Erdogan instead reiterated his support for Qatar and described the 13 demands levelled at the Gulf country as preconditions to restore relations as being “against international law”.

“To ask Turkey to pull out its troops from Qatar is firstly disrespectful behaviour towards us,” he said in Istanbul on the first day of a three-day holiday to mark the end of Ramadan.

“We don’t need permission from anyone to establish military bases among partners. We endorse and appreciate Qatar’s stance towards the 13 demands. It’s a very, very ugly approach to try to interfere with our agreement.”

Sharply escalating the worst diplomatic crisis among Gulf allies in decades, the Saudi led-alliance on Friday gave Qatar 10 days to comply with a list of demands, which included closing the state-funded broadcasting network, al-Jazeera , scaling back contact with Iran, removing Turkish troops from its soil and severing ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar has said it will not comply with the demands, and Erdogan’s endorsement appeared to entrench Doha’s position – setting the scene for a showdown on July 3rd.

Late yesterday Iranian president Hassan Rouhani also voiced support for Qatar, saying a “siege of Qatar is unacceptable”, the state news agency IRNA reported. “Tehran stands with the Qatari nation and government... We believe that if there is a conflict between regional countries, pressure, threats or sanctions are not the right way to resolve differences,” IRNA quoted Rouhani as telling Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in a telephone call. “The siege of Qatar is unacceptable to us... The airspace, land and sea of our country will always be open to Qatar as a brotherly and neighbouring country,” Rouhani said.

Strangling trade

Saudi Arabia has not specified what it intends to do if the tiny nation refuses to align its foreign policy with that of its powerful neighbour and its allies. Riyadh and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have already imposed a land, sea and air blockade of Qatar, strangling trade and forcing food shortages.

The Saudi stance has become more pointed, with senior ministers across the region accusing the Qatari ruling family of licensing the support of terrorism for decades.

Speaking in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said the alternative to agreeing to terms with its neighbours would be “parting ways”.

“Is Qatar ready for a new life without ties to KSA [SAUDI ARABIA], UAE and Bahrain? For a policy isolating it from its environment for the sake of supporting extremism?” he asked. “To prefer a partisan extremist agenda and spend huge sums on that agenda and jihadist groups? After anger will come wisdom.”

Addressing Turkey’s involvement in Qatar, which stemmed from a bilateral defence agreement made in 2014 and ratified recently, Dr Gargash said: “The Turks left Qatar over a century ago and now have returned. They have big interests in the region and we hope Turkey’s priority will be its interests and not its ideology. But 1,000 or 2,000 Turkish troops show lack of confidence from Qatari government in its stability. Stability will come from integration with the neighbourhood.”

The UK’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, last Friday appeared to suggest the demands levelled are unreasonable.

He called on Qatar and the other Arab countries to “sit together” to work through the list.

– (Guardian service, Reuters)