, ANKARA, Turkey, Jul 14 – Turkey and Qatar on Friday insisted Ankara would keep a new military base in the emirate, rejecting demands from other Gulf countries for the facility to be closed.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain last month cut diplomatic ties with Qatar over what they allege is Doha’s support for extremist groups and ties to Riyadh’s regional rival, Iran.
They then issued 13 wide-ranging demands to lift a blockade placed on Qatar, including the closure of the Turkish military base in the emirate.
“No country has the right to raise the issue of the Turkish base or the military cooperation between Qatar and Turkey as long as this cooperation respects international law,” Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told reporters in Ankara.
Speaking after meeting al-Thani, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the demands to close the base “go against the two countries’ sovereignty.
“A third country has no right to say something to Qatar or Turkey. Everyone must respect this,” he added.
Cavusoglu added that until now, there had been “no objections” over the base, Turkey’s first military facility in the Gulf region.
The crisis has put Turkey in a delicate position since Qatar is its main ally in the Gulf but Ankara does not want to antagonise key regional power Saudi Arabia.
Shortly after the crisis unfolded, Ankara fast-tracked the deployment of troops at the base as part of a bilateral defence deal agreed in late 2014.
Turkey now has 150 troops at the base, Hurriyet daily reported on Wednesday, up from 80 first sent after the parliament approved the deployment.
Cavusoglu also pointed to the lack of objections to the presence in Qatar of the largest American airbase in the Middle East, seen as crucial to the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will visit the key players in the crisis including Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the next weeks.
The Qatari top diplomat, who will meet Erdogan later, said Doha was being subjected to an “unjust siege” imposed “without any reason”.