Turkish FM says Turkey not siding with anyone in Gulf

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Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah (right 2) welcomes Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (left 3) prior to their meeting in Kuwait City on June 15, 2017. Cem Ozdel / Anadolu Agency

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Thursday said he would visit Saudi Arabia on Friday as part of efforts to defuse a crisis in the Gulf that erupted last week after several countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, severed ties with Doha over its support for terrorist groups, saying Turkey is not siding with any country in the region, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“We cannot discriminate between the Gulf countries. It does not serve the interests of Turkey,” said the foreign minister.

“Saudi Arabia is the elder brother and the most important country of the Gulf. Its role is crucial for the security and stability of the region,” added Çavuşoğlu.

Upon a question of why Turkey sided with Qatar in the current crisis, the Turkish minister said that “we are not siding with anyone.”

Çavuşoğlu also rejected comments that Qatar is siding with Iran in the region: “No country stands against Iran’s activities in the region as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar do. Who did Qatar side with in Yemen? Iran or the Gulf Cooperation Council?”

“I do not see any escalation. As for other countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Kuwait, it is normal that Qatar buys planes and other materiel needed for its defense. The agreement approved by our parliament was routine. It just happened to coincide with the current situation,” said the Turkish minister in response to a question as to whether the new agreement between Qatar and the US had contributed to the escalation of tension in the region.

Qatar said Wednesday it had signed a $12 billion deal to buy F-15 fighter jets from the United States.

Accompanied by Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, Çavuşoğlu had visited Qatar and Kuwait on Wednesday but was unable to secure a meeting in Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Saudi King Salman – the eldest statesman in the Gulf – must show leadership and solve a crisis with Qatar that erupted last week after several countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, severed ties with Doha over its support for terrorist groups.

Criticizing the Gulf countries’ isolation of Qatar by saying it is “inhumane and against Islamic values,” Erdoğan said, “It’s as if a death penalty decision has been imposed on Qatar.”

A delegation consisting of three members of the Turkish military was dispatched to Qatar on Tuesday to make preparations for troop deployment to the country, which is now in a diplomatic crisis with other Gulf states.

On June 7, the Turkish Parliament approved legislation allowing its troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar.

The diplomatic crisis erupted between Qatar and other Gulf countries after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed relations with Doha claiming Qatar embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disrupting stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda, and constantly promotes the messages and schemes of these groups through their media.

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