25, July 2017
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has wrapped up a tour of Arab countries involved in a dispute but has failed to help bring the feuding sides closer to one another. Erdogan arrived in Qatar on Monday on the last leg of a tour that had also taken him to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
In Qatar, he met with Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha. Qatari state news agency QNA said the two sides discussed joint efforts to combat terrorism and extremism, reviewed defense and economic cooperation, and praised Kuwait’s mediation role in the crisis. During the talks, Sheikh Tamim “reviewed regional developments, specifically the [Persian] Gulf crisis and efforts to contain it and to resolve it through diplomatic means,” according to the QNA.
But it was unclear how Erdogan had sought to contribute to a resolution of the dispute beyond calling on the leaders he met to try and ease the tensions. It was also improbable that he conveyed any messages from Saudi Arabia — the country leading a diplomatic and economic war on Qatar — to the leadership in Doha. Turkey has firmly taken Qatar’s side, to the displeasure of Doha’s adversaries, and is thus not looked upon as a trusted go-between.
The dispute has seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar and blocking their transit routes to the country. They have accused Doha of “supporting terrorism” — a charge that the blockading countries face themselves. Qatar has denied the accusation and has said it is being targeted because of its independent foreign policies.
The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash seemed to display the Saudi-led side’s unhappiness with Ankara on Monday when he said in effect that Erdogan’s regional tour had been useless. “The Turkish president’s visit did not carry anything new, and the hasty stand his country had taken made neutrality as the best option for Ankara. A Qatari review will achieve more than repeated visits,” Gargash wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday.
When Erdogan left Saudi Arabia, where he had met with King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed, it was unclear what, if anything, he had achieved diplomatically. The official Saudi news agency did not report much about the meetings except that they had taken place. In addition to Erdogan, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and representatives from Europe have toured the region in recent weeks in a bid to soothe the tensions between the Arab states in the Persian Gulf, all to no avail.
Qatar has said the dispute is likely to linger. More recently, the Qatari emir said that the blockade by the Saudi-led bloc had been “a pre-planned smearing campaign.” While in Qatar, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who was accompanying Erdogan in the regional tour, said that Ankara was trying to organize direct talks between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc.
“The most appropriate way is to sit together around the table and [have] direct talks. This is the main obstacle in front of us and I hope there will be an opportunity for such format soon,” he said. Also on Monday, Russia expressed its own readiness to help mediate in the dispute if requested to do so.
“We are interested in this crisis being overcome, taking into account mutual concerns and finding solutions which will be acceptable for all participants of this process,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Kurdish television channel Rudaw.