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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claims ultimatum issued to Qatar is 'against international law'

Mr Erdogan slams anti-Qatar blockade as he refuses to withdraw Turkish troops from the country

Greg Wilford
Sunday 25 June 2017 17:24 BST
Firm stance: Mr Erdogan looks set to go ahead with military exercise to be conducted with Qatar
Firm stance: Mr Erdogan looks set to go ahead with military exercise to be conducted with Qatar (Reuters)

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said an ultimatum issued to Qatar is “against international law” and claimed calls to withdraw his troops from the Gulf emirate are “disrespectful”.

Mr Erdogan announced his support for the monarchy in Doha after they accused a group of Arab nations including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain of forming an “illegal blockade” against them and issuing unreasonable demands.

The anti-Qatar coalition has accused the gas-rich nation of funding terrorist groups in the region – claims echoed by Donald Trump. Earlier this month the US President said Qatar had a history of “funding terrorism at a very high level”.

UAE: Diplomacy will be given 'one or two more chances' before they 'part ways' with Qatar

Among demands the boycotting countries have made for restoring relations is the closure of Al Jazeera television, curbing alleged relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, and closing a Turkish military base.

The demands are apparently aimed at dismantling Qatar’s interventionist foreign policy, which has incensed conservative Arab peers over its alleged support for Islamists they regard as threats to their dynastic rule.

But officials in Doha rejected the ultimatum and said they won’t sit down to negotiate an end to the crisis while the siege conditions remain in place.

Mr Erdogan has backed Qatar’s stance and said calls for Turkish troops to withdraw from the country were “disrespectful” on Sunday.

Speaking outside a mosque in Istanbul, he said: “We approve and appreciate the attitude of Qatar against the list of 13 demands.

“This approach of 13 demands is against international law because you cannot attack or intervene in the sovereignty of a country.”

Mr Erdogan said Turkey had offered to establish a military base in Saudi Arabia but is yet to receive a definitive response.

“If Saudi Arabia wants us to have base there, a step towards this also can be taken,” he told reporters. “I made this offer to the king himself and they said they will consider this.

“They’ve not got back to us since that day and in any case, asking Turkey to pull back its troops [from Qatar] is disrespectful to Turkey.”

Turkey has sent 100 cargo planes with supplies to the Gulf state whose neighbours cut air and sea links. Qatar has also rushed through legislation to send more troops to its base in Doha.

Two contingents of Turkish troops with columns of armoured vehicles have arrived since the crisis erupted, and Defence Minister Fikri Isik said on Friday that further reinforcements would be beneficial.

“The strengthening of the Turkish base would be a positive step in terms of the Gulf’s security,” he said. “Re-evaluating the base agreement with Qatar is not on our agenda.”

The Hurriyet newspaper said last week a joint exercise by Turkish and Qatari forces was expected following the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday which starts on Sunday, and the number of Turkish soldiers sent to the Gulf state could eventually reach 1,000. An airforce contingent was also envisaged, it said.

Both Qatar and Turkey, whose ruling AK Party has its roots in Islamist politics, backed a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt before it was overthrown in 2013. The Arab states have demanded Qatar cut any links to the Brotherhood and other groups they deem to be terrorist, ideological or sectarian.

UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaibi insisted there was no threat of military action but warned: “The measures that have been taken are there to stay until there is a long-term solution to the issue.”

Qatar’s neighbours are demanding that it:

• Curb diplomatic ties with Iran, and limit trade and commerce.

• Stop funding other news outlets, including Arabi21, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.

• Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from the four countries.

• Stop all means of funding for groups or people designated by foreign countries as terrorists.

• Pay an unspecified sum in reparations.

• Stop all contact with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.

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