Turkey Steps Up Gulf Diplomacy When Nerves Have Calmed

Turkey has stepped up its flurry of diplomacy to bury hostilities in the Gulf region at a time when the crisis has already shown signs of fading away, leaving little, if any, role for Turkey to bridge differences.

This week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had official talks in Qatar amid the political tension between the tiny Gulf state and other Saudi-led Arab countries. In Doha, Mr. Cavusoglu underlined Turkish government’s support for Qatar.

In a surprise visit, the Turkish foreign minister proceeded to Kuwait, a country that joined Saudi-led embargo with United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, and Jordan. But Kuwait has also become the first Gulf country to display the willingness to end the crisis with “open and direct dialogue.”

Mr. Cavusoglu’s next visit will be Saudi Arabia on Friday, Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu reported, where he will meet with King Salman as a part of Turkey’s efforts to mediate in the Qatar crisis.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan initially said Turkey is ready to mediate the crisis, but later threw his weight behind Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar’s Emir. Mr. Erdogan also harshly criticized other Gulf countries, denouncing the isolation of Qatar as a “violation of Islamic values.” He made it clear that he doesn’t buy Saudi accusations of Qatar supporting terrorism.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Qatari foreign minister, welcomed Turkey’s support to solve the crisis. He wrote on Twitter:

Turkish foreign minister’s visit to Qatar and Kuwait came just after President Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the rift was damaging the Muslim world and Turkey would do its best through diplomatic channels to prevent any escalation.

Against the backdrop of the crisis came a surprising military deal between the U.S. and Qatar. On Wednesday, Qatari Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah and US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis signed a $12-billion deal for 36 F-15 combat jets.

In a symbolic gesture, two U.S. warships also visited Qatar, which houses the biggest U.S. fleet in the region. On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that the situation in the region “is trending in a positive direction.”

There is one country that is obviously unhappy with Turkey’s involvement in the region: Egypt. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi even allegedly urged Gulf leaders to expand their boycott until Ankara gives up support for Qatar, the New Arab reported.

The report said Mr. Sisi expressed his ideas during a meeting with Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa and repeated his accusation that Turkey funds and hosts “terrorist groups” in Syria.

Bad blood between Ankara and Cairo goes back to 2013 when Mr. Erdogan leveled blows against Mr. Sisi for removing former President Mohammed Morsi through a military intervention.

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