Qatar’s military is in the final stages of preparations for joint exercises with US and Turkish forces, despite the kingdom’s isolation by its Gulf neighbors, Qatari Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah told RT Arabic.
“The drills involving the three nations [Qatar, the US & Turkey] will start in the shortest time,” Al-Attiyah said, adding that “preparations are ongoing.”
The recent falling out between Washington and Ankara over the Kurds, whom the US calls allies in the fight against terrorism and Turkey regards as a prime security threat, would be no stumbling block for the upcoming wargames, he said.
“Turkey is a member of NATO. It has the second biggest military force in NATO. Its relations with the United States are built on common interest. The US knows how important Turkey is, and vice versa,” the minister said.
“I don’t believe there are any sensitivities inflicted by the existence of Turkish and US military bases in Qatar simultaneously,” he added.
Qatar has spent around $1 billion to build the Al Udeid Air Base for US Central Command (CENTCOM), which the Americans have been using since the September 2001 terror attacks in the US.
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Turkish troops moved into the country only this June amid Doha’s row with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and several other Arab nations, which cut their ties with Qatar, blaming Doha of supporting terrorism and meddling in the affairs of other nations in the region.
“Our military agreements were signed more than two years ago and they can’t be annulled only because some countries decided to announce a blockade of Qatar. That’s why the Turkish side placed its contingent of our country’s territory in accordance with the earlier agreed schedule,” Al-Attiyah said.
He said that Doha and Ankara enjoyed a “special strategic relationship” as they have the same stance on the issue of “liberating the oppressed peoples and democracies.”
The Qatari defense minister also praised the “friendly and firm” relations between Doha and Washington.
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“Qatar and the US are allies and partners in the international anti-terrorist coalition,” and are actively developing bilateral ties, he said.
According to Al-Attiyah, the fact that Qatar’s complications with its Gulf neighbors began right after US President Donald Trump’s summit with Arab leaders in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in late May, was just a coincidence.
“None of these problems were raised then. It was a smooth meeting. And after that we had the Gulf-US meeting, and no problems were raised there either… And then, the next day we were surprised to see what had happened [the blockade],” he said.
“Maybe in one of the closed meetings they singled out Qatar, and it was assumed that Trump had thus given the green light, and it was a wrong assumption,” the minister added.
As for relations with the Arab states, which issued a 13-point ultimatum to Qatar, demanding, among other things, to stop aid to extremist groups, expel the Turkish military from the country and shut down the Doha-based Al Jazeera global TV network, Al-Attiyah said that “they should lift the blockade in order to start a dialogue” with Doha.
“If the (air, naval and ground) blockade countries stall lifting the blockade, Qatar will have to resort to means available to it internationally, should we find that this blockade violates international law. Therefore, Qatar will be forced to opt for international procedures to legally lift the blockade, with the support of countries that have acknowledged that all decisions taken based on this blockade are void,” he said.