Lift blockade first for talks to begin, says Qatar

The suspension comes at a time of diplomatic crisis in the Gulf after Qatar was cut off by neighbouring countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The countries have accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, a charge that Doha strongly denies. "They have to lift the blockade to start negotiations", Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told reporters in Doha, as quoted by Reuters.

"Qatar's exposure to the blockade countries - the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain - is limited". Last week, U.S. president Donald Trump called Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, and offered to help resolve the dispute.

While plausible, Turkey's one-sided support to Qatar could damage the chances of success of its mediation efforts, experts said. "We are starting to see risky spillovers already both in the broader region but also in Africa and in Asia, there are worrying signals", she said in Luxembourg. The foreign minister added that the economic impact on Qatar had so far proved minimal but added: "We are not claiming we are living in a ideal condition". "Qatar will realise that this is a new state of affairs and isolation can last years".

The UAE minister added that Turkey's interest resides in adopting a position in line with the measures taken by Qatar's opponents.

"We want to coordinate with these states to continue fighting terrorism", Abadi said, referring to Islamic State, the hardline Sunni group which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, and has claimed attacks in Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

The first drills took place on Sunday at the Tariq bin Ziyad military base in Doha, the ministry said in a statement.

Turkey has a military base in Qatar that now houses about 90 Turkish soldiers.

Later, a number of other countries also announced about severing diplomatic relations with Qatar.

Qatar's defence ministry said the joint exercises had been previously planned, though there is widespread agreement among officials and observers in the region that the fast-tracked deployment was aimed at deterring any military action against Doha.

The strain in Saudi-Qatar relations dates even further back, with border skirmishes in 1992 that left two Qatari soldiers dead and another imprisoned, and previous instances of the Saudi government expressing their disapproval of the content aired on the Qatari news network, Al Jazeera. The countries that imposed the sanctions gave Qataris two weeks to leave, which expired yesterday.

  • Zachary Reyes