Turkey’s defence minister says his country has no plans to review its military base in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar.
Fikri Isik’s comments come after Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations announced they have cut ties with Qatar over alleged support for terrorism. They issued a list of 13 demands to end the crisis which includes an end to Turkey’s presence in Qatar.
The Turkish minister said on Friday that any demand for the military base’s closure would represent interference in Ankara’s relations with Doha
“If there is such a demand, it will mean interference in bilateral ties,” Isik said, suggesting instead that Turkey might continue to bolster its presence in Qatar.
Five armoured vehicles and 23 military personnel arrived in Doha on Thursday (June 22) in a deployment Turkey’s armed forces said was part of a military training and cooperation deal. Some 88 Turkish soldiers were already in Qatar, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.
The newspaper said 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 air force contingent was also envisaged, it said.
“The strengthening of the Turkish base would be a positive step in terms of the Gulf’s security,” Isik said. “Re-evaluating the base agreement with Qatar is not on our agenda.”
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have now given Qatar 10 days to comply with their demands, which include paying an unspecified sum in compensation.
According to the list, Doha must also close down Al Jazeera television and refuse to naturalise citizens from the four Arab countries, expel those currently in Qatar and reduce ties with Iran.
Ankara has beefed up military support for Doha and stepped up commercial ties. Turkey has sent more than 100 cargo planes of supplies to the gas-rich nation.
Qatar denies supporting terrorism.