Turkey has rejected a call from four Arab countries to shut down its military base in Qatar, saying the base was a guarantor of security in the Gulf and demands for its closure represented interference in its ties with Doha.
Defence Minister Fikri Isik told Turkish broadcaster NTV that he had not yet seen a request for the closure of the base, but made clear his country had no plans to review a 2014 agreement with Qatar which led to it being set up.
His reaction comes after Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, boycotting Qatar over alleged support for “terrorism”, reportedly issued a list of demands including closing down the military installation.
“If there is such a demand, it will mean interference in bilateral ties,” Isik said in an interview on Friday.
“The base in Qatar is both a Turkish base and one that will preserve the security of Qatar and the region.
“It is an important military base and no country should be disturbed by it.”
Five armoured vehicles and 23 military personnel arrived in Doha on Thursday in a deployment that Turkey’s armed forces said was part of a military training and cooperation deal.
Some 88 Turkish soldiers were already in Qatar, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.
The newspaper said a joint exercise by Turkish and Qatari forces was expected following the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday which starts on Sunday and the number of Turkish soldiers sent to the Gulf state could eventually reach 1,000.
The Turkish military base in Qatar is a first for Turkey in the Arab world.
“Turkey’s miltary agreement with Qatar isn’t a new thing, but after the Gulf tensions erupted Turkey just fast-tracked a draft bill in the parliament to deploy its troops to Doha and boost Qatar’s morale,” said Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul.
“According to the agreement, almost 600 Turkish military personel will be training Qatar’s soldiers.”
Turkey has been the foremost supporter of Qatar since the Gulf dispute began on June 5.