Turkey has no intention of shutting down its brand new military base in Qatar, it said in a rejection of a demand about the small Gulf kingdom voiced by other Arab nations. Ankara says the base benefits the entire Gulf region.
Closing the Turkish base is reportedly one of 13 moves expected from Doha by a group of countries led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which last month declared a transport blockade of Qatar and downgraded diplomatic relations with it.
“If there is such a demand, it will mean interference in bilateral ties,” Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told the local broadcaster NTV.
On Thursday, five armored vehicles and 23 troops arrived in Qatar from Turkey as part of the military cooperation between the two countries. There are already 88 Turkish soldiers stationed in Qatar, and that number is expected to eventually reach 1,000, according to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. The agreement to host a Turkish base in Qatar was signed in 2014.
“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.”
The minister added that the base in Qatar benefits the security of the entire region. He added the Arab nations opposing Qatar didn’t send a demand to shut down the base to Turkey directly.
The rift among the Gulf nations is the latest iteration in a long-standing conflict over a number of issues, including Qatar’s support of the pan-Arab network Muslim Brotherhood, its economic ties with Iran and the influence it has in the Arab world thanks to its state-sponsored news channel Al Jazeera.
Saudi Arabia and its allies perceive the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, Iran as an enemy and Al Jazeera as an instrument of Qatari interference with their domestic affairs.
Turkey, which voiced support of Doha amid the antagonism, has tripled its exports to Qatar since the transport blockade was announced, Turkey’s Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci said Thursday. Qatar’s only land routes go through Saudi Arabia, so it now relies solely on sea and air supplies.