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Turkish Leader Wades in Qatar Dispute  07/24 06:09

   KUWAIT CITY (AP) -- Turkey's president waded into the diplomatic crisis 
gripping Qatar and four other Arab nations on Sunday, traveling to Saudi Arabia 
and Kuwait as part of a three-country Gulf tour aimed at helping break the 
impasse.

   Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the fifth high-level visitor from outside the Gulf 
to try to resolve the dispute since it erupted on June 5. The top diplomats of 
Britain, France, Germany and the United States have all been through already, 
underscoring the depth of concern the crisis is causing well beyond the region.

   Erdogan faces a tougher challenge in securing a breakthrough than Turkey's 
NATO allies because of the increasingly warm ties, including the deployment of 
military forces, it has built with Qatar in recent years. While members of the 
anti-Qatar quartet have strong trade links with Turkey, its closeness to Qatar 
raises suspicions of its motives for them.

   Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties and 
transport links with Qatar in early June, accusing it of supporting extremists. 
Qatar strongly denies the allegation and sees the dispute as politically 
motivated.

   The quartet insisted Qatar accept a tough 13-point list of demands to end 
the rift, including shutting down news outlets including Al-Jazeera, cutting 
ties with Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, limiting ties with 
Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country. Qatar refused, 
arguing that the demands were an effort to undermine its sovereignty.

   Turkey and Qatar announced plans to open Turkey's first military base in the 
Persian Gulf in 2015. The base opened last year and new troops have arrived 
since the Gulf rift erupted, raising fears of an escalation with the countries 
seeking to isolate it.

   Fellow Gulf country Kuwait has attempted to mediate the dispute, so far 
without success. Erdogan met with Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al 
Sabah, upon arrival in the country Sunday evening.

   Erdogan began his trip earlier in the day in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf's 
political and economic heavyweight. During his visit to the Red Sea city of 
Jeddah, he held talks with King Salman and his presumed heir, Crown Prince 
Mohammed bin Salman.

   Brief statements of both meetings carried by the official Saudi Press Agency 
emphasized that the talks focused on ways to counter terrorism in addition to 
touching on bilateral and regional issues.

   Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said in his first public comments on 
the dispute late Friday that Qatar is prepared to engage in dialogue, but that 
any resolution to the crisis must respect its sovereignty and that any terms 
cannot be dictated from outside. He also reiterated his country's commitment to 
fighting terrorism.

   The anti-Qatar quartet has shown little sign of backing down.

   UAE Minister of State for Foreign Relations Anwar al-Gargash responded to 
the emir's speech on Twitter saying that while dialogue is necessary, Qatar 
must review its policies because repeating its previous positions only "deepens 
the crisis."

   Britain's top diplomat welcomed the Qatari leader's comments, however, and 
said his country will continue to work toward finding a solution.

   "We hope that in turn Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain respond by taking 
steps towards lifting the embargo. This will allow substantive discussions on 
remaining differences to begin," British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said 
in a statement Sunday.


(KA)

 
 
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