Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has issued his most provocative remarks to date on the Qatar crisis gripping the Gulf and the wider region.
With Turkish troops en route to Qatar, Erdogan stated,
“A very grave mistake is being made in Qatar, isolating a nation in all areas is inhumane and against Islamic values. It’s as if a death penalty decision has been taken for Qatar”.
Erdogan has thus far taken the most strongly pro-Qatari position of any major world leader. Russia maintains neutrality and has encouraged the Gulf Cooperation Council of which both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are members, to solve the dispute amicably.
Iran meanwhile has offered food aid and the use of Iranian ports to the besieged State of Qatar. Qatari relations with Iran growing warmer is one of the stated reasons for the Saudi led cutting off of Qatar.
Although Donald Trump Tweeted his pro-Saudi position, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has thus far echoed Russia’s neutral stance.
Egypt, the Hadi government in Yemen, the Saudi allies UAE and Bahrain, the Libyan House of Representitives in addition to the Asian country of Maldives have joined the Saudi led boycott of Qatar.
If Erdogan’s support of Qatar backfires, it could cost him important connections in the wider Arab world, over and above those he already lost in Syria and Iraq. Erdogan’s strongly pro-Qatari position has already led Saudi Arabia to declare its support for Kurdish independence, something that Ankara is resolutely opposed to.
However, if Qatar manages to see off the Saudi threats, there is a chance that Turkey could be handsomely rewarded by Qatar with whom Turkey has an existing good relationship.
As he has done many times before, Erdogan is taking a gamble, one he can barely afford to lose.