Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was sending his top diplomat to Qatar on Wednesday in a bid to broker an end to what he has called the inhumane behaviour of neighbouring Gulf States in severing ties with Doha and imposing sanctions.
Turkey has backed Qatar in a dispute that has ramifications across the Middle East, from Cairo to Baghdad, and raised concerns in Washington and Moscow. Doha denies accusations by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain that it supports terrorism and courts regional rival Iran.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was scheduled to meet Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani during a visit also expected to take him to Saudi Arabia.
Qatar said on Wednesday it had withdrawn troops from the border between the east African states of Djibouti and Eritrea where the Gulf state has been acting as mediator in a border dispute. It gave no reasons for the move, but Djibouti had earlier downgraded its diplomatic ties with Qatar after the Gulf move against Doha.
Erdogan, in Turkey’s strongest comments since the rift began on June 5, denounced the isolation of Qatar as a violation of Islamic values and akin to a “death penalty”.
The measures against Qatar, which has a population of 2.7 million people but vast gas wealth, have disrupted imports of food and other materials and caused some foreign banks to scale back business.
Qatar, which imported 80 percent of its food from bigger Gulf Arab neighbours before the diplomatic shutdown, has been talking to Iran and Turkey to secure food and water.
No demands yet
Gulf Arab states have not made public any demands on Qatar but a journalist with the state-funded Al Jazeera network has shared a list that includes Qatar severing diplomatic ties with Iran and expelling members of the Palestinian Hamas group and the Muslim Brotherhood who live in Doha.
Turkey and Qatar have both provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The list of demands also includes ending support for “terrorist organizations” and ceasing “interference” in Egyptian affairs.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has criticised the measures imposed on Qatar, saying in Baghdad on Tuesday they were hurting the emirate’s people, not its rulers.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, speaking after talks in Washington with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, said the measures taken against Doha did not amount to a blockade since Qatar’s airports and ports remained open and offered to send supplies to Qatar if needed.
The Qatari foreign ministry said Saudi Arabia’s offer to provide food and medical assistance to Qatar confirms that the closure of transport links “is a siege, not a boycott, and reflects the clear contradiction in statements by officials of those countries.”