Turkey Chooses Sides in Gulf Conflict as Erdogan Defends Qatar

  • Turkish president says Gulf action against Qatar not right
  • Erdogan refrains from attacking Gulf allies including Saudis

Trump, Saudi King Talk Over Phone on Gulf Unity

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lined up behind Qatar in its feud with Saudi Arabia and regional allies, offering to mediate a resolution of a crisis that has thrown one of the world’s most strategically important regions into turmoil.

Categorization of Qatar as a terrorist state won’t help alleviate the problems facing the region which is in need of unity, Erdogan told a group of Turkish diplomats late Tuesday, while carefully avoiding any censure of the gas-rich emirate’s adversaries.

Erdogan in Ankara, June 6.

Photographer: Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“I’d like to say that we don’t find sanctions against Qatar right,” Erdogan said at the gathering in Turkish capital, Ankara. “The most appropriate way for the Gulf Cooperation Council countries to solve their internal issues is through dialogue. In this regard, we admire Qatar’s constructive and cool-headed approach.”

A group of countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar earlier this week, accusing the Gulf emirate of supporting terrorist groups ranging from Shiite Iranian proxies to Sunni militants such as Islamic State.

For more on Qatar spat: Why Tiny Qatar Angers Saudi Arabia and Its Allies: QuickTake Q&A

Erdogan, who has sided with Qatar against Saudi Arabia in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, had previously held his silence on the crisis. But in an attempt to avoid alienating other Persian Gulf states by coming down hard on them, he offered to step in as a peacemaker.

“We’ll continue to develop our relationship with Qatar like all other friends whose support we felt” during last year’s failed military coup attempt, Erdogan said. “We are ready to do everything to resolve other countries’ problems with Qatar.”

Qatar, a country of 2.7 million people about the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut, is a major investor in Turkey’s $857 billion economy with interests in media, financial and defense companies. The Turkish military is building a base in the emirate that will eventually host 10,000 troops under a pact in which Turkey agreed to defend Qatar militarily in the future.

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