Turkish, Qatari ministers meet amid crisis with Arab states

AP News
Posted: Jun 30, 2017 5:30 AM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Qatar's defense minister was to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart on Friday as the Gulf nation's feud with four other major Arab states deepens amid a sweeping list of demands to Doha, including the closure of a Turkish military base there.

In Ankara, Defense Ministry officials said Qatar's Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah and Turkey's Fikri Isik were to meet later in the day.

Turkey is adamant to keep its base in the small Gulf Arab state and has sided with Qatar in the dispute, which saw Arab countries cut ties to Doha earlier this month, accusing it of supporting terror groups. Qatar denies the accusation.

In a sign of support, Turkey shipped supplies to Doha to help ease its isolation and swiftly ratified military agreements with Qatar, allowing the deployment of soldiers to its base. A contingent of 23 troops departed for Doha last week, joining some 90 soldiers already there.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected the four Arab nations' demand for an end to Turkish troop presence in Doha, calling it "disrespectful" and saying that Turkey would not seek permission from others over its defense cooperation agreements.

Turkey insists the Turkish troop deployment to Qatar aims to enhance regional security and is not aimed against any specific country.

Other demands presented to Qatar by the four — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — include shuttering Al-Jazeera television and curbing diplomatic ties to Iran.

Erdogan has called the demand for Al-Jazeera's shutdown an attempt to take away the network's press freedom and has urged rights groups to speak out against that.

Qatar denies supporting extremism and considers the demands an attempt to undermine its sovereignty.