On June 11, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu held a joint meeting with ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain in Ankara to discuss a Gulf diplomatic rift. This meeting was a response to Gulf states cutting trade and diplomatic ties with Qatar last week because of claims alleging Qatar’s support of terrorism. Qatar has denied these charges.
In the meeting, Çavuşoğlu outlined Turkey’s concerns and expectations from the international community regarding the crisis. He also spoke about his talks with officials from third parties regarding the Gulf region conflict.
The meeting came three days after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan requested full removal of the Saudi-led blockage on Qatar. On June 9, Erdogan stated that isolating Qatar would not help to solve regional problems and vowed to do everything he could to end the crisis. Turkey and Qatar have a long history of being on the same side of regional conflicts. For instance, both countries supported the Egyptian revolution and condemned the coup that brought Egypt’s current leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, into power. They also both back rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and refuse to classify Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood as ‘terrorist organizations.’
Measures against Qatar included the closing of land borders, maritime territory, and airspace. Qatar relies heavily on food imports and these measures raised fear of a food crisis, as most imports come from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Gulf states also ordered that Qataris leave and ordered home their own citizens.
Amnesty International has warned of ‘heartbreak and fear’ suffered by citizens caught up in the diplomatic crossfire and conflict. “Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates are toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents as part of their dispute with Qatar, splitting up families and destroying people’s livelihoods and educations,” said the England-based rights group.
On June 7, Turkey’s Parliament fast-tracked the approval of legislation to allow for troop deployment to a Turkish military base in Qatar. Turkish analysts believe the decision was not necessarily anti-Saudi, but a show of support for Qatar as it faces diplomatic and trade isolation.
“Turkey’s military base in Qatar has always been, and still is, a symbolic gesture and nothing more,” said Atilla Yesilade, a political analyst for Istanbul’s Global Source Partners. “Yet, although this is not an anti-Saudi position, it is a pro-Qatari one for sure,” stated Can Kasapoglu, a defence analyst from Turkey’s EDAM. “Ankara prioritized its geopolitical perspective, and showed that it holds its military presence [in Qatar] above the recent diplomatic crisis.”
“Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates are toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents as part of their dispute with Qatar, splitting up families and destroying people’s livelihoods and educations,” said the England-based rights group. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has warned of ‘heartbreak and fear’ suffered by citizens caught up in the diplomatic crossfire and conflict. Amnesty International has also reported the story of a Qatari man who was unable to return to his farmland in Saudi Arabia. He told the group that his friends in Saudi Arabia were too scared to look after his land or remain in contact with him for fear of being prosecuted.
With that said, “It is unthinkable that states can so blatantly infringe on the right to freedom of expression. Citizens have the right to express views and concerns about their governments, as well as feelings of sympathy towards others,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Program.