Er­do­gan vis­its Kuwait, Saudi Ara­bia to defuse Qatar cri­sis

Turk­ish pres­i­dent meets Amir, sup­ports me­di­a­tion ef­forts

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan yes­ter­day be­gan a key trip to the Gulf aimed at de­fus­ing the stand­off over Tur­key’s ally Qatar, say­ing no one had an in­ter­est in pro­long­ing the cri­sis. Er­do­gan, whose coun­try has come to Qatar’s aid in the dis­pute, had talks in Jed­dah with King Sal­man who hailed the Turk­ish leader’s “ef­forts in the fight against ter­ror­ism and its fi­nanc­ing”, Saudi state news agency SPA re­ported. He also met Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man be­fore leav­ing for Kuwait for the sec­ond leg of his tour. Er­do­gan was re­ceived by Kuwait’s Amir HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber AlSabah, who has been me­di­at­ing to re­solve the cri­sis.

On June 5, Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emi­rates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, ac­cus­ing it of back­ing ex­trem­ism and fos­ter­ing ties with their Shi­ite ri­val Iran. Doha de­nies the claim and has been strongly backed by Ankara through­out the stand­off. The Turk­ish pres­i­dent will visit Qatar to­day for his first face-to-face talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad Al-Thani since the cri­sis be­gan. “No one has any in­ter­est in pro­long­ing this cri­sis any­more,” Er­do­gan said be­fore leav­ing Istanbul. He ac­cused “en­e­mies” of seek­ing to “fire up ten­sions be­tween brothers” in the re­gion.

Er­do­gan praised Qatar’s be­hav­ior in the cri­sis, say­ing Doha had sought to find a so­lu­tion through di­a­logue. “I hope our visit will be ben­e­fi­cial for the re­gion,” he said. The cri­sis has put Tur­key in a del­i­cate po­si­tion, and Er­do­gan has re­peat­edly said he wants to see an end to the dis­pute as soon as pos­si­ble. In re­cent years, Qatar has emerged as Tur­key’s num­ber one ally in the Mid­dle East, with Ankara and Doha closely co­or­di­nat­ing over is­sues

in­clud­ing the Syria con­flict where both are staunch foes of Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad. Tur­key is also set­ting up a mil­i­tary base in Qatar, its only such out­post in the re­gion. It has ex­pe­dited the process since the cri­sis be­gan and re­port­edly now has 150 troops there. “From the first mo­ments of the Qatar cri­sis, we have been on the side of peace, sta­bil­ity, sol­i­dar­ity and di­a­logue,” said Er­do­gan. But Tur­key, which is also go­ing through a tur­bu­lent time with the Eu­ro­pean Union and the United States, also does not want to wreck its own re­la­tions with re­gional king­pin Saudi Ara­bia.

“As the el­der states­man in the Gulf re­gion, Saudi Ara­bia has a big role to play in solv­ing the cri­sis,” said Er­do­gan, tak­ing care not to ex­plic­itly crit­i­cize the king­dom. Er­do­gan said he sup­ported the me­di­a­tion ef­forts of Kuwait’s Amir, a pos­si­ble in­di­ca­tion Ankara sees Kuwait as the key to solv­ing the cri­sis. The Qatari emir said Fri­day he was ready for talks to re­solve the row as long as the emi­rate’s sovereignty is re­spected. His call re­ceived a cold re­cep­tion from the UAE’s state min­is­ter for for­eign af­fairs, An­war Gar­gash, who said he hoped the emir had pledged to re­con­sider Qatar’s po­si­tion. “Di­a­logue is nec­es­sary, but it should be based on a re­vi­sion” of Qatar’s stance, he tweeted.

Er­do­gan is likely to get a warm wel­come in Doha where Tur­key has been loudly ap­plauded for send­ing in food, in­clud­ing fruit, dairy and poul­try prod­ucts by ship and by plane to help Doha beat an em­bargo. Tur­key has also ben­e­fited, with its ex­ports to Qatar dou­bling in the past month to more than $50 mil­lion. Ac­cord­ing to the econ­omy min­istry, Ankara has sent around 200 cargo planes filled with aid since the cri­sis be­gan.

Er­do­gan’s tour co­in­cides with a visit to Kuwait by the EU for­eign af­fairs chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini, who held talks yes­ter­day with Kuwaiti of­fi­cials. A state­ment said Mogherini paid trib­ute to Kuwait’s “re­lent­less me­di­a­tion ef­forts” in the dis­pute and called for a res­o­lu­tion “through di­a­logue and with­out de­lay”. Rights group AFD In­ter­na­tional called yes­ter­day for an end to the “block­ade” of Qatar, warn­ing that the re­gional boy­cott has led to “forced sep­a­ra­tion” of fam­i­lies.

— KUNA/AP

(Left) Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan is wel­comed by HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah upon his ar­rival at Kuwait In­ter­na­tional Air­port late yes­ter­day. (Right) Er­do­gan is greeted by Saudi King Sal­man upon his ar­rival in Jed­dah yes­ter­day.

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