Qatar defies US and sides with Turkey with $15bn investment pledge amid Lira crisis

Turkish President Erdogan meets with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim in Ankara. (Presidential Palace/Handout)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Qatar defies US and sides with Turkey with $15bn investment pledge amid Lira crisis

  • Emir's support for Erdogan comes amid trade, diplomatic spat with US
  • The Turkish currency has lost nearly 40 percent against the dollar this year

JEDDAH: Qatar defied US President Donald Trump on Wednesday and promised to plough $15 billion into Turkish financial markets and banks, amid a collapse in the value of the lira and a looming trade war between Turkey and the United States.

The bail-out followed talks in Ankara between the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

The lira has lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year, driven by worries over Erdogan’s growing influence on the economy and his refusal to raise interest rates despite high inflation.

Last week the US doubled tariffs on aluminium and steel imports from Turkey, during a dispute over Turkey’s detention of an American pastor on security charges that the US views as baseless.

In response, Erdogan launched a boycott of US electrical products and sharply raised tariffs on other US imports.

Turkey and Qatar have become close economic and political partners. Doha has $20 billion worth of investments in Turkey, and Ankara is one of the top exporters to the emirate. Sheikh Tamim was the first foreign leader to call Erdogan after the aborted coup in Turkey in 2016, and Turkey — along with Iran — is one of the few countries to support Qatar against the boycott by the Saudi-led Anti-Terror Quartet over Doha’s financing of terrorism. 

Although Qatar has now pledged $15 billion it has not actually paid anything, and it may not be enough to solve Turkey’s economic problems.

Analysts also said the political cost of the investment remained to be seen, given that Qatar is also a US ally and dependent on Washington for both military and political protection.

“This is what happens when you choose to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds,” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, told Arab News. “The Americans have their base at Al-Udeid in Qatar so naturally they will expect Qatar to toe their line.

“Qatar has gravitated toward Turkey because of the Muslim Brotherhood link and the Iranian connection so now it finds itself in an unenviable situation. If they side with Turkey, they run the risk of antagonizing US President Donald Trump. If they back the American position on Turkey tariff penalties, then they lose Turkey.”

Al-Shehri said Ankara appeared to have blackmailed Qatar into supporting it. “They said they came to Qatar’s support during Doha’s row with its Arab neighbors, and now it was Qatar’s turn to pay back the favor.”


End Syria hospital attacks, Russia told at UN

Updated 19 July 2019
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End Syria hospital attacks, Russia told at UN

  • Kuwait, Germany and Belgium asked for the hastily called closed-door session
  • Russian and Assad egime aircraft have since late April ramped up deadly bombardment of the Idlib region

UNITED NATIONS: Russia on Thursday opposed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an end to attacks on health facilities in Syria’s Idlib region, diplomats said after the latest meeting over violence in the country’s last major opposition bastion.
The outcome led to a rare statement following the meeting by the UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock.
“The carnage must stop,” he said.
Russian and Assad egime aircraft have since late April ramped up deadly bombardment of the Idlib region of about three million people in northwest Syria, despite a deal to avert a massive government assault.
Kuwait, Germany and Belgium asked for the hastily called closed-door session, the latest of many they have sought since May in response to worsening fighting in Syria’s northwest.
The draft text, given to journalists, expressed “grave concern regarding the recent attacks on hospitals and other health facilities,” including a July 10 attack on Maarat National Hospital, one of the largest in the area and whose coordinates had been shared through the UN “deconfliction mechanism” that aims to spare civilian targets.
Russia again denied bombing such facilities.
“I provided information from my ministry of defense” and investigation demonstrated that there were “no attacks at nine out of eleven facilities” allegedly attacked, Moscow’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters.
“The two others were partially damaged but not by Russian” forces, he said.
His British counterpart, Karen Pierce, seemed skeptical.
“There’s some interest in an investigation into the Maarat Hospital hit. So I think that’s the thing to focus on,” she said at the end of the meeting.
“We’ve got our suspicions. But let’s get a proper look into that and get a proper answer.”
Lowcock said after the meeting that since July 1, “at least six health facilities, five schools, three water stations, two bakeries and one ambulance have been damaged or destroyed.
“Entire villages have been destroyed and emptied” because of air strikes, he said.
Regime air strikes on Tuesday killed 11 civilians in Idlib’s south, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The region on Turkey’s doorstep is administered by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, but other jihadist and rebel groups are also present.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week strongly condemned air strikes in the region following reports from a Syrian doctors’ group that four health facilities including the Maarat Al-Numan facility were hit during a single day of bombing.
Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.