Turkey will back Qatar in its diplomatic row with its Gulf neighbours, as President Erdogan urges Saudi Arabia to show restraint.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he does not believe Qatar does not support terror organisations, after allegations by Saudi Arabia and the UAE that Doha hosts or funds “terrorist groups”.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and other states broke off relations on Monday over Qatar’s links with the Muslim Brotherhood and relations with Iran, Riyadh’s regional arch-rival.
On Friday, the Saudis and their allies placed several Qataris and Doha-based organisations on a “terror list” including several prominant Muslim Brotherhood figures.
They released a joint statement listing as many as 18 individuals, including members of Qatar’s royal family and a former minister as involved in “terrorist” activities.
Erdogan has vowed to continue to back its close ties with Qatar despite its close ties with Gulf states.
“They declare foundations established to provide different services as terror organisations. Something like this should not happen. I know those foundations. Until today I have not witnessed Qatar give support to terror,” Erdogan said in Istanbul.
In addition to cutting ties, Saudi Arabia has also sealed off Qatar’s only land border, a crucial lifeline for food imports.
Turkey has offered to break the blockade and started to export food to Qatar.
Erdogan called for the embargo on Doha to end and for Saudi Arabia as “custodian of the two Holy Sites” (Mecca and Medina to show solidarity with a fellow Muslim country.
“I have a request to the Saudi administration: you are the biggest in the Gulf, the strongest… not with hostilities, you should be the leader of fraternity there, you should bring everyone together,” Erdogan said.
He also ratified a bill approved by Turkish lawmakers on Wednesday to deploy troops to a Turkish base in Qatar in a move seen as Ankara’s show of support for Doha.
“Why does the American base not discomfort you? There are other countries’ bases too, why doesn’t it discomfort you?” he said, referring to the al-Udeid airbase, which is home to some 10,000 US troops.
It is a crucial hub for US military operations in the Middle East, especially the battle against the Islamic State group.
“Sorry, but we will continue to give all kinds of support to Qatar,” he said.
Arab countries closed air, sea and land links with Qatar, barred the emirate’s planes from their airspace and ordered Qatari citizens out within 14 days.
The crisis escalated further on Friday after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain released a list of 59 Qatari and Doha-based people and entities linked to “terrorism”.