Erdoğan says will close Turkish military base only if Qatar demands it

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President of Turkey and ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan poses for a photo at Tarabya Presidential Residence in İstanbul, Turkey on July 03, 2017. Turkish Presidency / Murat Cetinmuhurdar / Anadolu Agency

Amid a crisis between Qatar and Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey could close its military base in Qatar only if Doha so desires, Hurriyet reported on Wednesday.

“The demands of the Gulf States [led by Saudi Arabia] are not acceptable under any conditions,” said Erdoğan, speaking on Kanal 24 about a list of demands that includes closing a Turkish military base in Qatar, put forward by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt and other Arab countries.

“We will close the Turkish military base only if Qatar demands it.”

In early June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Yemen imposed a diplomatic and economic blockade on Qatar, which they accuse of supporting terrorism, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Turkey has vowed to stand by Qatar and called on Saudi Arabia to end all sanctions.
Immediately after the countries imposed sanctions on Qatar, Turkey’s Parliament approved two agreements for deploying troops to Qatar and military cooperation. Ankara has also sent supplies, including a ship carrying 4,000 tons of food.

As Saudi Arabia has the only land border with Qatar, which was closed when the crisis began, Turkey has thus far sent 105 cargo planes of supplies to Qatar, Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi recently said.

Turkish-FSA operation against the YPG

Regarding recent developments in Syria, President Erdoğan said the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) might launch an operation against Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria if the militant group poses security threat.

“It is impossible to believe that the weapons which were given to the YPG could be gotten back,” said Erdoğan, criticizing US support for the YPG.

The state-run Anadolu news agency last week reported that the US has sent a total of 468 truckloads of weapons to the YPG since May 15. Ankara considers YPG a terrorist organization due to its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Last week the Turkish armed forces retaliated with artillery fire overnight and destroyed YPG targets after Kurdish militia opened fire on Turkish-backed forces in northern Syria, the Turkish military said.

In a bid to clear Turkey’s border of ISIL and stop the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) from merging its Kobane and Afrin cantons, Turkey along with FSA troops took control of a 2,015-square-kilometer area after launching Operation Euphrates Shield last August.

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