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Turkey adds troops in Qatar in defiance of Arab bloc boycott

Crisis set to affect Qatar currency after stock crash

Gulf News

Ankara: Turkey is building up its military presence in Qatar, an adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, in defiance of the Arab bloc’s demand that the Turkish military pull out of the country.

“Turkey’s steady build-up continues there,” adviser Ilnur Cevik said on Monday by phone. Turkey has deployed dozens of commandos and some artillery units in Qatar, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.

The Arab bloc — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — cut diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar on June 5 over its support to terrorism. They have vowed to restore them only after Doha complies with a list of 13 demands, including ending Turkey’s military presence, scaling back ties with Iran and severing relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The conflict has resisted Kuwaiti mediation and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s shuttle diplomacy, and on Monday, a senior UAE official said the bloc was ready for this process to take a “very long time.”

Qatar and Turkey are expected to hold a joint military drill this month after the arrival of a 25-member Turkish artillery unit, Hurriyet said. Turkey already has about 150 troops in Qatar, Hurriyet reported.

Diplomatic efforts to end the Arab bloc’s boycott of Qatar have so far failed. After four days of shuttle diplomacy between Gulf capitals last week, Tillerson said the dispute may last “quite a while.” The sides still refuse to speak to each other directly and are no closer to resolving the key demands made after the crisis started.

Last week’s diplomacy may be followed by another round of negotiations involving the US, the UK and the Arab bloc, according to three officials with knowledge of the deliberations.

Qatar used to depend on Saudi Arabia for 38 per cent of its food, according to Mazen Al Sudairi, head of research at Al Rajhi Capital.

Investors, though, have been speculating against Qatar’s currency as they ponder how long it can weather the crisis without having to devalue the riyal or sell any of its $335 billion in global holdings. Moody’s Investors Service cut the credit outlook for Qatar to negative on July 4, while the country’s stock market has lost about $8.3 billion in market value, or 5.7 per cent, since the boycott took effect.