Saudi-Turkish ties strained over differing views on Qatar

Judith Bessette
Junho 19, 2017

The dramatic political crisis unfolding between Qatar and several other Arab states might have negative implications for Turkey, the small Gulf state's staunchest supporter, analysts said.

However, the Times report quoted Saudi sources who dismissed the notion of a possible upgrade in diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, saying this was wishful thinking on behalf of the White House, which wishes to demonstrate immediate progress following President Donald Trump's recent visit to the region. In reply to a statement by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE, accusing a dozen charity organisations and 59 individuals in Qatar of links to "terrorism", Erdogan said: "There is no such thing". It exaggerated talks and repeated news to reassure its citizens that the American military base will remain in Qatar.

He later told Bahrain's foreign minister that the dispute between Qatar and its Arab adversaries should be settled by the end of Ramadan, Turkish media reported.

As the world's biggest exporter of liquid natural gas, Qatar's supplies keep homes warm in the British winter, fuel Asian markets and even power the electrical grid of the United Arab Emirates, one of the main countries that has cut ties to the energy-rich nation.

Turkey's open support to Qatar is a choice based on its economic and strategic considerations.

On another hand, the recent concerted actions against Doha, backed by the USA government, has sounded an alarming bell to Turkey.

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More so, Qatar's airspace has been sizably trimmed after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain -neighboring Gulf states - closed off their air and land routes for the country's role in funding extremist groups. Many Erdogan supporters fear that he could be the next target by the US after the Qatari emir. "He praised efforts to isolate Qatar".

Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said the remarks attributed to him in the report, or any other remarks on the situation concerning Saudi Arabia and Qatar are "completely false". "It took on much more of an edge in 2011 when they really backed different sides in the Arab Spring".

Both agreements were drawn up before the spat between Qatar and its neighbours erupted and were brought to parliament by AKP MPs in an extraordinary session. "By taking the Qatari side, Turkey confronts a huge Sunni block that stretches from North Africa to the Maldives", he said.

Turkey, which is a strong backer of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, has criticized the measures against Qatar and authorized the deployment of additional troops to Qatar in a show of support.

Moreover, Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are also highly disturbed about Qatar's warm ties with Shiite-dominated Iran, which they see as a major security threat.

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