Turkey’s military presence in Qatar “creates a balance in the region” that prevents potential clashes, Yasin Aktay, a senior member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), has told Al Jazeera.
“Turkey is protecting its own interests through the base in Qatar, rather than taking sides between the parties at odds. And Ankara’s interests require stability in the region. Therefore, Turkey would be against an attack on Saudi Arabia as much as Qatar,” Aktay said.
“There would always be forces to fill the vacuum when there are unbalanced situations like (developments in the Gulf region). And Turkey’s interests require it not to leave a power vacuum there. Turkey’s existence there prevents potential mistakes,” he continued.
Qatari and Turkish forces have carried out joint exercises in a sign of growing military ties between the two nations. The ‘Iron Shield’ exercise was carried out by the Qatari Emiri Land Forces in co-operation with the Turkish forces.
The Qatari military said the exercise was aimed at exchanging information, training senior military officials and improving co-ordination between the two forces to boost security. Also, a two-day joint maritime exercise (Rapid Response) was held between Qatar Emiri Naval Forces and its Turkish counterpart in Qatar territorial waters.
Turkey’s parliament had in June fast-tracked the approval of an April 2016 agreement with Qatar on the implementation of troops’ deployment to the Turkish military base.
It also approved a December 2015 agreement that allows the Turkish military to train Qatari security forces. Saudi Arabia and its allies have called for the closure of Turkey’s military base in Qatar as part of their demands to resolve the GCC crisis. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said the demands were “against international law” and rejected closing down the base.
Ankara had offered to form a military base in Saudi Arabia but was denied by government sources, according to Saudi state media. Turkey plans to gradually increase the number of its forces in Qatar to 3,000, according to the agreement between them, and keep a brigade in the Gulf country.
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