DOHA/WASHINGTON (Web Desk) Qatar held joint military exercises with Turkish troops on Monday, Qatari media reported, showcasing their strategic alliance two months into a boycott by Arab neighbours which accuse Doha of supporting terrorism.The manoeuvres are aimed at preparing Qatar’s armed forces to defend “vital economic, strategic and infrastructure facilities,” state-owned newspaper Al Sharq reported.
Turkey’s parliament fast-tracked legislation on June 7 to allow hundreds of troops to be deployed to a military base in Qatar, set up as part of an agreement signed in 2014, in a show of support for Qatar, which is also home to the biggest US air base in the region.Ankara has said it will deploy 3,000 ground troops at the base to serve as a venue for joint training exercises and to support anti-terrorism efforts.
Turkey stood by Qatar after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain called it a supporter of terrorism, which Doha denies, and cut off diplomatic ties and transport links.Two US envoys travel to Gulf to work on Qatar riftTwo US envoys arrive in the Gulf region this week to meet with officials there to help resolve a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and four other Arab countries that has lasted for more than two months, a State Department official said on Monday.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing Qatar of backing terrorism. Qatar denies that it supports terrorism and there has been no clear sign of a resolution to the diplomatic dispute.
Timothy Lenderking, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Gulf affairs, and retired US Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni “are in the Gulf region this week to engage with the parties involved and support the Government of Kuwait’s mediation efforts,” a State Department official said.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose own trip to the Gulf in July resulted in a US-Qatari accord on combating terrorism financing but no major breakthrough in the dispute, announced Zinni and Lenderking’s mission last week.
Zinni’s presence would help “maintain a constant pressure on the ground, because I think that’s what it’s going to take,” Tillerson told reporters last week. “There’s only so much you can do with telephone persuasion. But we are committed to see this disagreement resolved, restore Gulf unity, because we think it’s important to the long-term effort to defeat terrorism in the region.” Zinni,
who has not been given any formal role as a US envoy to the countries involved in the dispute, served as commander of US Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the Middle East. Following his military career he served as the US special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority during the George W. Bush administration.