PARIS (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday reaffirmed Turkey’s support for Qatar in its dispute with four other Arab states, saying their demands against the tiny Gulf nation were unacceptable.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and allying with regional foe Iran, charges Doha denies, and have cut diplomatic and commercial ties.
At a meeting in Cairo on Wednesday the four nations’ foreign ministers refrained from slapping further sanctions on Qatar but voiced disappointment at Doha’s failure to comply with their 13 demands after the expiry of the deadline.
“When it comes to this list of 13 items ... it’s not acceptable under any circumstances,” Erdogan said in an interview with France 24 television.
Some of the terms were tantamount to “stripping” Qatar of its statehood, he added.
Among their demands is for Qatar to end an accord under which Turkey maintains a military base in the Gulf state.
“We remain loyal to our agreement with Qatar. If it requests us to leave, we will not stay where we are not wanted,” he said through an interpreter, adding there had been no such request.
Turkey, the most powerful regional country to stand by Qatar, has sent 100 cargo planes with supplies since its neighbors cut air and sea links. It has also rushed through legislation to send more troops to the military base in Doha.
Two contingents of Turkish troops with columns of armored vehicles have arrived since the crisis erupted on June 5.
Erdogan, who was speaking ahead of the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg later this week, also took a swipe at the United States saying its arming of “terrorist” Kurdish groups would backfire and that it would be impossible for Washington to recover heavy weapons as it has promised to do so.
He also said Ankara was ready to carry out ground operations in northern Syria against Kurdish forces if it felt threatened.
The head of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on Wednesday that Turkish military deployments near Kurdish-held areas of northwestern Syria amounted to a “declaration of war” which could trigger clashes within days.
“If there is a threat against us, our troops will conduct any operations with the Free Syria Army on the ground,” Erdogan said when asked whether Turkey was prepared to intervene against the Kurds.
Elsewhere in Syria, Erdogan said he was optimistic on the implementation of de-escalation zones that are under discussion in the Kazakh capital Astana with Russia and Iran. He said he would discuss the next steps with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit in Germany.
Erdogan added that he hoped the Astana talks would pave the way for political negotiations under U.N. auspices in Geneva, but said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had no future in the country. Russia and Iran are both allies of Assad.
“Of course he has to leave,” Erdogan said. “Those who want Assad to remain are still going after their interests in Syria.”
Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Gareth Jones
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