Turkey sends more troops to Qatar

2017-12-27 14:25
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Istanbul - A new batch of Turkish soldiers have arrived at Turkey's military base in Qatar as part of a joint defence agreement between the two countries.

Qatar's defence ministry announced on Tuesday the arrival of the fresh reinforcement at the Al Ubeid airbase in the capital, Doha.

The group, including soldiers from the Turkish Joint Forced Command, will join Turkish troops already based at the Tariq bin Ziyad military base in southern Doha.

The new arrivals will hold training with Qatar's armed forces to boost joint military capabilities.

The first Turkish troop deployment to Qatar was in 2015.

Turkey set up a military camp in Qatar, its first such installation in the Middle East, as part of an agreement signed in 2014.

Military training

The base has a capacity to accommodate up to 5 000 troops.

Turkey plans to gradually increase the number of its forces in Qatar to 3 000, according to the agreement between them, and keep a brigade in the Gulf country.

In June, Turkey's parliament fast-tracked the approval of a separate April 2016 agreement with Qatar on the implementation of troops' deployment to the Turkish military base.

It also approved a December 2015 agreement that allows the Turkish military to train Qatari security forces.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a major supporter of Doha since Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade with Qatar on June 5.

The four Arab countries had accused Doha of supporting "terrorism" and fostering ties with their regional rival Iran. Qatar denies the accusations.

Ankara has also been trying to mediate between the sides to find a solution to the crisis.

In a show of solidarity, Turkey has also sent cargo ships and hundreds of planes loaded with food to help Qatar offset the blockade.

The closure of the Turkish base was one of 13 demands by the Saudi-led group of countries in order to lift their embargo on Qatar.

Yasin Aktay, a senior member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), said that Turkey's military presence in Qatar "creates a balance in the region" that prevents potential clashes.

"Turkey is protecting its own interests through the base in Qatar, rather than taking sides between the parties at odds," he said.

"And Ankara's interests require stability in the region. Therefore, Turkey would be against an attack on Saudi Arabia as much as Qatar."

Turkey and Qatar are close allies on foreign policy, including issues in Palestine, Syria and Egypt.

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