Turkish exports to Qatar triple during Gulf crisis: trade minister

Buildings are seen on a coast line in Doha, Qatar, June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish exports to Qatar have tripled from their normal levels to $32.5 million since four Arab countries began boycotting the Gulf state on June 5, Turkey’s Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci said late on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain accuse Qatar of funding terrorism, fomenting regional instability and cosying up to revolutionary theocracy Iran. Qatar has denied the accusations.

They have sent Doha a list of 13 demands including closing Al Jazeera television, reducing ties to their regional adversary Iran and closing a Turkish military base in Qatar, an official of one of the four countries told Reuters.

Turkey, which has long tried to play the role of regional mediator, has backed Qatar in the dispute but is also wary of upsetting its other allies, including Saudi Arabia.

“Since June 5 exports to Qatar have amounted to $32.5 million. Of this $12.5 million is food. This figure is three times the normal level,” Tufenkci told reporters at a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner on Thursday evening.

Turkey has sent more than 100 cargo planes of supplies to Qatar but Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci has said it was not sustainable to maintain supplies through an air lift.

On Thursday, Turkey sent its first ship carrying food to Qatar and dispatched a small contingent of soldiers and armored vehicles there, while President Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Saudi Arabia’s leaders on calming tension in the region.

Turkey fast-tracked legislation on June 7 to allow more troops to be deployed to a military base in Qatar that houses Turkish soldiers under an agreement signed in 2014.

Reporting by Ercan Gurses; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier