Gulf crisis: Erdogan rejects Arab demands; Turkish troops stay in Qatar

Turkey’s president on Sunday rejected a demand by major Arab states to remove Turkish troops from Qatar, saying their sweeping list of ultimatums has threatened the small Gulf country’s sovereignty.

world Updated: Jun 28, 2017 08:09 IST
Reuters, Istanbul
Qatar crisis,Qatar Gulf crisis,Gulf crisis
Turkey’s president on Sunday rejected a demand by major Arab states to remove Turkish troops from Qatar, saying their sweeping list of ultimatums has threatened the small Gulf country’s sovereignty.(Reuters File Photo)

Turkey’s president on Sunday rejected a demand by major Arab states to remove Turkish troops from Qatar, saying their sweeping list of ultimatums has threatened the small Gulf country’s sovereignty.

Speaking after Eid prayers in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the demand “disrespectful” and said Turkey would not seek permission from others when making its defense cooperation agreements.

“Demanding that Turkey pull its soldiers is unfortunately also disrespectful toward Turkey,” he said.

He said Turkey would continue to support Qatar against the many sanctions it has faced since several Arab countries moved earlier this month to isolate the country for its alleged support of terrorism.

In a sign of support, the Turkish parliament swiftly ratified a 2014 agreement with Qatar earlier this month, allowing the deployment of troops to its base there. The military said a contingent of 23 soldiers reached Doha on Thursday.

Erdogan said he made a similar offer to Saudi Arabia to set up a base there in the past but did not hear back from the king.

Doha received a 13-point list from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain that included demands to shut down the media network Al-Jazeera and cut ties with Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood. The energy-rich country said it was reviewing the ultimatum but added it would not negotiate under siege.

Turkey’s president said his country “admires and embraces” Qatar’s attitude, while slamming the demands by arguing they contradict international law.

“Here we see an attack against a state’s sovereignty rights,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan called the demand that Qatar shut down Al-Jazeera an attempt to take away the network’s press freedom and urged rights groups to speak out against that.

Qatar has described the pressure by its larger neighbours as an “illegal blockade” aimed at curbing its sovereignty, and said that the ultimatum by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain was unreasonable.

Erdogan said Turkey appreciated and endorsed Qatar’s response to the 13 demands, which include closing the Al Jazeera satellite television network, curbing relations with Iran and shutting a Turkish base in Qatar.

Erdogan said Turkey had offered to set up a military base in Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar, but Riyadh had not responded.

“Even though they still didn’t come back to us on this, asking Turkey to pull back its troops (from Qatar) is disrespectful against Turkey,” he said.

Speaking outside a mosque in Istanbul after prayers marking the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, Erdogan said he would continue his planned programme despite feeling briefly unwell.

“I had a little condition about my blood pressure, related to my diabetes,” he said.

First Published: Jun 25, 2017 11:49 IST