Erdogan says prolonging Gulf crisis 'not in anyone's interest'

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Reuters)
Updated 23 July 2017
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Erdogan says prolonging Gulf crisis 'not in anyone's interest'

ISTANBUL: Prolonging the crisis in the Gulf sparked by the isolation of Qatar is not in the interest of anyone, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday as he embarked on a key visit to the region.
"No-one has any interest in prolonging this crisis any more," said Erdogan before leaving Istanbul airport on the two-day trip that will take him to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and then Qatar.
He accused "enemies" of seeking to "fire up tensions between brothers" in the region.
On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar accusing it of backing extremism and fostering ties with their Shiite rival Iran. Doha denies the claim and has been strongly backed by Ankara throughout the standoff.
The crisis with Qatar has put Turkey in a delicate position and Erdogan has repeatedly said he wants to see the end of the dispute as soon as possible.
Over the last years, Qatar has emerged as Turkey's number one ally in the Middle East, with Ankara and Doha closely coordinating their positions on a number of issues including the Syria conflict where both are staunch foes of President Bashar al-Assad.
Crucially, Turkey is in the throes of setting up a military base in Qatar, its only such outpost in the region. It has sped up the process since the crisis began and reportedly now has 150 troops at the base.
"From the first moments of the Qatar crisis, we have been on the side of peace, stability, solidarity and dialogue," said Erdogan.
But Turkey, which is also going through a turbulent time with the European Union and the United States, also does not want to wreck its own relations with regional kingpin Saudi Arabia.
"As the elder statesman in the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia has a big role to play in solving the crisis," said Erdogan, with explicitly criticising the kingdom.
Erdogan said he supported the mediation efforts of Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, a possible indication Ankara sees Kuwait as the key to solving the crisis.
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said Friday he was ready for talks to resolve the crisis so long as the emirate's sovereignty is respected.


UN chief warns of risk of war in Gaza

Updated 18 June 2018
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UN chief warns of risk of war in Gaza

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning that Gaza is close to the brink of war and expressed shock over the number of Palestinians killed and wounded by Israeli live fire during protests, in a report obtained by AFP on Monday.
Guterres told the Security Council that he “unequivocally condemns the steps by all parties that have brought us to this dangerous and fragile place” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The report was sent to the council last week ahead of a meeting on Tuesday on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
The violence in Gaza marks the most serious escalation between Israel and Hamas since the 2014 war.
“It is and should be a warning to all how close to the brink of war the situation is,” said Guterres.
“I am shocked by the number of deaths and injuries of Palestinians resulting from the use of live fire by Israel Defense Forces” since protests began on March 30, he said.
At least 132 Palestinian have been killed. The Red Cross says more than 13,000 have been wounded including 1,400 who suffered multiple gunshot wounds, many in the legs.
Israel has a responsibility to “exercise maximum restraint” and protect civilians in line with international humanitarian law, the UN chief wrote.
“The killing of children, as well as of clearly identified journalists and medical staffers by security forces during a demonstration are particularly unacceptable,” he added.
Two Palestinian journalists were killed while covering the protests in April while a 21-year-old medic was shot dead in early June.
Guterres renewed his call for an independent investigation of the shooting deaths in Gaza. Israel has rejected the appeal and argues that the use of force is justified to defend its borders.
The UN chief criticized Hamas and other militant groups for attempting to put explosives near the fence and for shooting rockets at Israel on May 29 and 30.
He singled out “senior Israeli government officials” for asserting that all Palestinians were affiliated with Hamas, signalling a “permissive Israeli policy toward the use of live fire against protesters.”
Israel’s settlement activities “continue unabated,” Guterres added, citing a May 30 decision by Israel to approve 3,500 housing units in the West Bank — the largest batch of new housing since June 2017.
The United Nations considers the expansion of settlements on land earmarked for a future Palestinian state to be illegal. Guterres said the construction must “cease immediately and completely.”