DOHA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan are welcomed by Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at Doha International Airport at the start of his official visit to Qatar yesterday. - AFP

DOHA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Doha yesterday as part of a Gulf tour aimed at defusing a dispute between Turkey's ally Qatar and a bloc of Saudi-led Arab states. Erdogan was greeted by Qatari ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani ahead of their first face-to-face talks on the Gulf crisis, state news agency QNA reported. Sheikh Tamim and Erdogan both backed Kuwait's mediation efforts to resolve the dispute during the talks aimed at discussing regional and international developments, particularly on efforts to resolve the feud through "dialogue and diplomacy", QNA said.


The visit was focused on "developments in Syria and Iraq, the fight against terrorism ... and the importance of protecting countries' sovereign rights", Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in Doha. Turkey has sided with Qatar in the crisis, the worst to hit the region since the 1981 establishment of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain suspended diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar over allegations that Doha had too close ties with Iran and supported Islamist extremist groups. Qatar has denied the allegations.


Erdogan held talks on Sunday in Kuwait, which is leading mediation efforts in the crisis, and Saudi Arabia, where King Salman hailed the Turkish leader's "efforts in the fight against terrorism and its financing". Erdogan has voiced support for the mediation efforts of Kuwait, a possible indication that Ankara sees Kuwait as the key to resolving the crisis.


Qatar's emir said in an address to the nation on Friday that Doha was open to talks with the Saudi-led bloc on condition his country's "sovereignty" was respected. His call received a cold reception from the UAE's state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, who wanted Qatar to review its policies. "Dialogue is necessary, but it should be based on a revision" of Qatar's stance, he tweeted.


Qatar has emerged as Turkey's top ally in the Middle East in recent years, with Ankara and Doha closely coordinating over issues including the Syria conflict where the two are staunch foes of President Bashar Al-Assad. Turkey is also setting up a military base in Qatar, its only such outpost in the region. It has expedited the process since the crisis began and reportedly now has 150 troops in the emirate. - Agencies