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Bahrain's FM in about-face over Turkish base in Qatar

Sheikh Khalid says presence of foreign forces in Qatar will have consequences, apparently referring to Turkish soldiers.

Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa

Just over two weeks after stating that Turkey's military's presence in Qatar has no relation to an ongoing Gulf crisis, Bahrain's foreign minister appears to have performed a complete u-turn.

Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa on Monday accused Qatar of creating a "military escalation" in the regional diplomatic dispute, in an apparent reference to the long-planned deployment of Turkish troops in Qatar's capital, Doha, in recent days.

"The disagreement with Qatar is a political and security dispute and has never been military," the Bahraini foreign minister said on Twitter.

"But the deployment of foreign troops with their armoured vehicles is a military escalation for which Qatar will bear the consequences."

Yet, these remarks contradicted previous statements made by Khalifa during a visit to Turkey in June 10, three days after Turkey's parliament fast-tracked the approval of a 2016 agreement with Qatar that allowed troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in the Gulf state. 

"This base has been established … to protect the countries in the region from threats that might emerge. It has nothing to do what is going on between us and Qatar," Khalifa said at the time during a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, according to Turkey's state-run media.

For his part, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in the news conference that no country in the Gulf region should regard the deal about Turkey's base in Qatar as against itself.

He also stressed that the setting up of the base was aimed at contributing to the security and stability of all Gulf countries - a statement welcomed by Bahrain's foreign minister.

[The Turkish foreign minister] stressed that this base has been set up in order to protect the security and stability of the GCC countries and will not be used against anyone," Khalifa told reporters at the same press briefing. "We are pleased with this statement," he added.

Gulf rift

Along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and a number of other countries, Bahrain severed relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting "terrorism" and Iran. Qatar strongly rejects the accusations.

Last week, the four Arab countries reportedly gave Qatar 10 days to comply with a list of 13 demands to end the crisis, insisting, among others, that Qatar close the same Turkish military base that Khalifa had acknowledged as helping in the protection of the region's security during his Turkey visit earlier this month.

Qatari officials immediately dismissed the document as neither reasonable nor actionable.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday also denounced the demands of the Saudi-Emirati-led bloc as being "against international law".

Turkish troops deployed

Two contingents of Turkish troops with columns of armoured vehicles have arrived in Doha since the crisis erupted following the Ankara-based parliament's approval of the April 2016 deal.

Turkish and Qatari forces have also carried out long-planned military exercises, which are part of a mutual agreement aimed at strengthening the defence capabilities of both countries, as well as boosting efforts to combat armed groups and maintaining stability in the region. That deal was signed by the two countries in December 2015.


READ MORE: An Open Letter from Al Jazeera


Earlier in June, Erdogan said that he had offered to also build a military base in Saudi Arabia after work began on the Turkish base in Qatar.

"I made the same offer to King Salman ... and said that if it's appropriate we could also establish a base in Saudi Arabia. They said they would look into it but since that day nothing more came," he told the Portuguese broadcaster RTP.

Shortly after Erdogan's statement, officials in the kingdom rejected the offer, according to Saudi Arabia's state-run media.

Before the arrival of the Turkish troops, Qatar's foreign minister had clarified that their deployment in Doha was for the sake of the entire region's security.

In an interview on June 8, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani also insisted that the crisis be solved by peaceful means.

"There cannot ever be a military solution to this problem," he said.

diplomatic


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