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Erdogan vows to stand by 'Qatari brothers' amid crisis

Turkish president urges Saudi Arabia to act like the 'Custodian of the Two Holy Places' in Gulf diplomatic row.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan requested the full removal of a Saudi-led blockade of Qatar after approving the deployment of Turkish troops there, saying Riyadh needed to put brotherhood ahead of animosity.

Erdogan said isolating Qatar would not resolve any regional problems and vowed to do everything in his power to help end the regional crisis.

"We will not abandon our Qatari brothers," Erdogan told members of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party at a fast-breaking meal on Friday in Istanbul during the holy month of Ramadan.

"I also have a special request from the Saudi administration. You are the largest and most powerful state in the Gulf. We call you the Custodian of the Holy Places. You especially should work for brotherhood, not animosity. You have to work for bringing brothers together. This is what we expect from Saudi, the Custodian of the Holy Mosques.

"I say it should be lifted completely," Erdogan said of the embargo.

Late on Thursday, a joint statement by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the UAE accused 59 individuals and 12 charity organisations in Qatar of being "linked to terror", local media reported.

Speaking about the allegations, Erdogan said: "There is no such thing. I know those foundations."

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt severed relations with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting "extremists" and their arch-adversary Iran - charges Qatar calls "baseless". Several countries followed suit.


READ MORE: Qatar diplomatic crisis - All the latest updates


Turkey has maintained good relations with Qatar, as well as several of its Gulf Arab neighbours. Turkey and Qatar have both provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Erdogan said he had never witnessed Doha supporting "terrorism".

"There are those who are uncomfortable with us standing by our Qatari brothers, providing them with food. I'm sorry, we will continue to give Qatar every kind of support," he said.

On Wednesday, Turkey's parliament ratified two deals on deploying troops to Qatar and training the Gulf nation's security forces.

The deal to deploy Turkish troops in Qatar, aimed at improving the country's army and boosting military cooperation, was signed in April 2016 in Doha.


READ MORE: Qatar-Gulf crisis: All the latest updates


After an initial deployment of Turkish soldiers at a base in Doha, Turkish warplanes and ships will also be sent, the mass-circulation Hurriyet newspaper said on its website on Friday.

"The number of Turkish warplanes and Turkish warships going to the base will become clear after the preparation of a report based on an initial assessment at the base," Hurriyet said.

A Turkish delegation would go to Qatar in the coming days to assess the situation at the base, where about 90 Turkish soldiers are currently based, it said.

Turkish officials were not available to comment on the report, but Hurriyet said there were plans send some 200 to 250 soldiers within two months in the initial stage.


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