Turkey will close military base if Qatar makes such request, Erdoğan says
President says demands by Saudi-led bloc unrealistic
Turkey will not close its military base in Qatar, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told French media Wednesday.
The closure of the base would happen under one condition, Erdogan told the France 24 television network.
"Unless Qatar wants it, we will not do it," Erdogan said.
A defense agreement in 2014 between Ankara and Doha required Turkey to establish a base in Qatar, at the request of the Qatari government.
Erdogan said the same terms were presented to Saudi Arabia for Turkey to build a base in the kingdom but Riyadh wanted time to think it through.
The Turkish base in Qatar was built but Saudi Arabia now wants to get rid of it.
"If Qatar has such a request of us, of course we will no longer remain in a place where we are not wanted," Erdogan said.
"Why do they not ask the same thing for CENTCOM? Because the Americans have also a base there, the French have a base there," Erdogan said of the American command responsible for the Middle East, north Africa and central Asia. "We remain loyal to our agreement with Qatar and we own up to it until the end."
Turkey does not want the Qatar situation to widen into a Gulf regional crisis and has asked Saudi Arabia, as the strongest country in the region, not to allow it to develop into an even bigger crisis.
A list of demands by Saudi Arabia and its allies, which included the closure of the Turkish base in Qatar, to restore diplomatic ties with Qatar are unrealistic to the sovereignty of a state, Erdogan said.
"When it comes to this list of 13 items: That simply will strip a state of its quality of a state -- Qatar a state" and are not acceptable under any circumstances because they are challenging the state function of Qatar, Erdogan said.
Erdogan said he has not lost hope for a solution to the crisis but the West and Turkey are not in support of the stance by the Gulf countries, and he knows Qatar fights terrorism and no one should be misled or have the wrong impression on that issue.
On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and Yemen abruptly cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of meddling in their domestic affairs and supporting terror groups.
Mauritania followed suit shortly afterward, while Jordan downgraded its diplomatic representation in Doha.
Saudi Arabia also sealed its land border with Qatar, geographically isolating the tiny Gulf state.
Doha has denied the allegations and described the moves to isolate it as "unjustified".
Turning to the upcoming G20 summit, Erdogan said he is disappointed by Germany's move to prevent him from addressing Turks there – a move that stifles democracy.
"To be honest this approach in my opinion when it comes to international politics and liberties and in terms of advancing democracy these are very unfortunate statements coming from Germany," he said.
He cited a campaign in Germany in which demonstrators held a sign in front of the German chancellery that read, "If you want to win this car kill the dictators".
"Well and who are these dictators? Erdogan, Putin and the King of Saudi Arabia Salman. So, these signs were on this play and the German police was also in presence right there. So, in front of the very eyes of the German police there was this encouraging people to violence to commit a crime. Unfortunately, German authorities kept silent about it," he said.
Despite the campaigns to prevent his voice from being heard, Erdogan vowed to attend the G20 summit later this week where he said he would raise the issues.
"It is very saddening and of course there are about 3 million people of Turkish origin living in Germany, about 1.5 million people being dual citizens of both countries so the German authorities should be much more careful much more held back in terms of their statements," he said.
Germany is one country but on the broader issue of Europe's criticism of Turkey's anti-terror operations after a failed coup last summer, Erdogan said Europe needs to be sensitive in the way in which it evaluates the situation.
He said 250 people were killed, 2,193 injured and several locations bombed during the coup attempt – facts that failed to come to the forefront of discussions by Western countries.
Regarding Syria, the president said Turkish troops are ready to intervene are prepared for any kind of threat.
"At this moment, especially if any threat is against us, of course our soldiers are ready for any kind of operation in cooperation with the Free Syrian Army," he said.
In Iraq, however, Erdogan is against an independence referendum scheduled for Sept. 25 because he said it would harm the territorial integrity of that country.