Turkey, Iran Back Qatar In Dispute With Other Arab States

Turkey on June 7 threw its support behind Qatar in Doha’s split with other Arab states, with Ankara accelerating troop deployment to Doha and offering to provide food and water supplies that have been cut off by Saudi Arabia.

Turkey’s move came as Iran, which already has offered to provide food to Qatar, where panicky citizens have been sweeping supermarket shelves clean, sent Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to Ankara to discuss what he called the “worrying” developments between the Persian Gulf’s Arab states.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Libya, and several other Sunni-led Arab nations have severed diplomatic relations, cut off transport routes, and suspended other ties with Qatar, accusing it of getting too close to Iran and funding “extremist” groups.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has good relations with Qatar and both countries have backed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as well as rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Erdogan has urged other Arab countries not to isolate the small Gulf nation, saying it will not resolve any problems, and has offered to mediate the dispute. But he openly sided with Doha on June 7.

Turkey’s parliament accelerated approval of legislation allowing Turkish troops to be deployed to Ankara’s military base in Qatar and increasing military training and cooperation.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s main exporters group said it was ready to meet food and water needs in Qatar, while a Qatari official said Doha was in talks with Iran and Turkey to ensure trade disruptions do not create shortages of food.

The president of Qatar’s Chamber of Commerce told Qatari media on June 7, however, that Qatar has enough food durables such as grain stored in strategic reserves to last for a year, and should have no trouble importing fresh food needs.

“There will be no shortage of food and other products as more than 95 percent of imports arrive by air and sea,” Qatari Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani said.

Worries about food supplies had arisen when Saudi Arabia stopped food delivery trucks at its land border with Qatar on June 7.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.