President Erdogan visits Gulf in hope of easing Qatar crisis

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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began on Sunday a key visit to the Gulf region aimed at defusing the standoff around Turkey’s ally Qatar, saying no one had an interest in prolonging the crisis.

Erdogan arrived in Jeddah to meet the Saudi leadership before heading to Kuwait, and on Monday to Qatar 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 any more,” said Erdogan at Istanbul airport before leaving on the two-day trip.

He accused “enemies” of seeking to “fire up tensions between brothers” in the region.

Erdogan praised Qatar’s behaviour in the crisis, saying it had sought to find a solution through dialogue. “I hope our visit will be beneficial for the region,” he said.

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 crisis with Qatar has put Turkey in a delicate position and Erdogan has repeatedly said he wants to see the end of the dispute as soon as possible.

Over the last years, Qatar has emerged as Turkey’s number one ally in the Middle East, with Ankara and Doha closely coordinating their positions on a number of issues including the Syria conflict where both are staunch foes of President Bashar al-Assad.

Crucially, Turkey is in the throes of setting up a military base in Qatar, its only such outpost in the region. It has sped up the process since the crisis began and reportedly now has 150 troops at the base.

“From the first moments of the Qatar crisis, we have been on the side of peace, stability, solidarity and dialogue,” said Erdogan.

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