Turkey has deployed 23 additional military personnel to Qatar and sent a cargo ship carrying food to the tiny Gulf state.
Three weeks ago, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar over concerns that the nation was supporting terrorist groups – accusations Qatar denies.
Turkey has stood behind Qatar during the dispute, providing the desert nation with food and pledging military support. After an initial run on grocery items in Qatar, Turkey stepped in to fill the shelves.
In the last three weeks, 105 Turkish cargo planes filled with food have made the trip to Qatar. The cargo ship leaving Thursday carries 4,000 tons of dry food, fruits and vegetables, and is expected to reach Doha in about 10 days.
111 Turkey forces in Qatar
Turkey has maintained a military presence in Qatar since 2014. On June 7, the Turkish parliament approved legislation to allow more troops to be stationed in Qatar.
Thursday’s deployment of 23 soldiers and five armored vehicles brings the number of Turkish military personnel in Qatar to 111. Turkey eventually could place more than 1,000 troops in the country, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.
Erdogan makes the call
In backing Qatar, Turkish officials tried to avoid threatening other Arab states.
“We don’t want any sort of tension with any Gulf state,” Erdogan spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said on Thursday. “In other words, if two of your friends — two neighbors — are disagreeing with each other and if there is something you can do about this, it is perfectly natural to go into action.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Saudi Arabia’s King Salmon on the phone the day before the decision was announced. A source in Erdogan’s office told Reuters that an “agreement was reached on increasing efforts toward ending tension in the region related to Qatar.”
The two leaders agreed to hold a face-to-face meeting next month at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.