First batch of Turkish troops arrive in Qatar
Turkey has sent a first batch of soldiers to Qatar in line with a recent deal on deployment, along with five armored vehicles, the Turkish military said June 22.
“The transfer of five armored vehicles and 23 military personnel at 8 a.m. on June 22, 2017, to Doha was completed as part of a troop deploying process by the Turkish Armed Forces to Qatar” as part of a deal on “the training, cooperation and deployment of troops,” it said.
Turkey’s parliament on June 7 fast-tracked legislation to allow troops to be deployed to a military base in Qatar, two days after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Doha in the worst diplomatic crisis in the region in years, over allegations that Doha supports terrorism.
“This is not a new deal,” presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın told a group of journalists in Ankara on June 22, adding that the deal was signed in 2016 and the first related talks dated back to 2014.
The size and the activities of the military base in Qatar had not yet been planned together with Doha, he said, highlighting that “the aim of this base is not creating a threat or risk against any third country.”
“We are doing this for the whole Gulf region,” he said.
The spokesperson said other countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, have soldiers and bases in Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
“Why do things that other countries do become a problem when they are done by Turkey?” Kalın asked. “This is a matter of indigestion for some,” he said, without mentioning a specific country or institution.
An A400M transported the Turkish soldiers, who were carefully picked and who all speak English as a foreign language, according to sources.
The soldiers were specially equipped to brave the desert conditions, officials said.
A joint drill between Turkish and Qatari forces may end after the of the Eid al-Fitr, which concludes on June 27.
Separately, Turkey sent its first ship loaded with aid for Qatar which has been hit by sanctions from Gulf powers led by Saudi Arabia, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.
Turkey has already sent over 100 planes with food and other aid for Qatar but this is the first time a cargo ship has embarked on the voyage to Doha.
The ship left the Aegean port of Aliağa in İzmir province with around 4,000 tons of fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs on board, Anadolu said. It should arrive in 10 days.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain broke off relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting “terrorism,” leaving Doha economically and politically isolated.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan immediately vowed to support Qatar.
Ankara vehemently rejected the accusations that Qatar supports terrorism, saying the country had been a staunch opponent of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said June 21 that Turkey had already sent 105 cargo flights to Qatar loaded with aid to help the country through the crisis.
In a sign of the importance of the relations with Riyadh, Erdoğan held phone talks with Saudi King Salman late on June 21 after the sudden appointment of his son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince in place of Mohammed bin Nayef.
Erdoğan also spoke with Mohammed bin Salman himself and passed on his congratulations over the move, Anadolu said.
Both sides expressed a commitment to further strengthen relations between Ankara and Riyadh and to “step up efforts” to end the tensions concerning Qatar, it added.