Qatar's defence minister to visit Turkey amid base controversy
Ankara (AFP) - The defence minister of Qatar is to visit its ally Turkey on Friday, state media reported, as Ankara resists pressure to shutter a military base in the emirate's unresolved row with Gulf neighbours.
Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah will meet with Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik at the defence ministry in Ankara, the state-run news agency Anadolu said on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain announced on June 5 the suspension of political, economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing the emirate of support for extremist groups.
Doha denies the claims and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said there is no basis to the allegations and offered Qatar Turkey's support.
Turkey has provided food and other aid via hundreds of planes and a cargo ship, although Ankara's attempts to mediate between the sides have so far come to nothing.
Crucially, Ankara is also setting up a military base on the emirate that is set to give Turkey a new foothold in the Gulf.
A bill was fast-tracked through the Turkish parliament this month as the crisis broke out giving Ankara a mandate to send up to several thousand troops to the base.
An initial contingent of 23 soldiers and five armoured vehicles arrived in Qatar on June 22.
Last week Riyadh and its allies issued 13 demands to Qatar, including the shutdown of the Turkish military base, or face further sanctions.
Erdogan hit back at the Saudi-led demands, calling the sweeping demands "against international law" and saying that asking for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Qatar was a "disrespect to Turkey."
Yet Ankara has also been careful not to directly criticise Riyadh and previously urged the kingdom to lead attempts to solve the crisis.