Arab and international Since 2017-07-22 at 19:22 (Baghdad time)
Follow up - Mawazine News
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heads to the Gulf on Sunday to try to heal the rift between Qatar and its neighbors, but Doha's close ally may find little room to act as a mediator in the crisis.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar and imposed sanctions last month accusing it of supporting terrorism, charges Doha denies.
In what has become the worst diplomatic crisis in the region for years, the four countries have issued a list of 13 demands for Qatar, including the closure of Al-Jazeera satellite channel, the reduction of relations with Iran and the closure of a Turkish military base.
Erdogan called the demands illegal and called for an end to the crisis, citing the need for Islamist solidarity and strong trade links in the region.
"We will work to the end to find a solution to the conflict between brotherly countries in the region," he said in remarks after Friday prayers. "The political problems are temporary, the economic ties are permanent and I expect investors from the Gulf countries to choose long-term ties."
As he seeks to defend Doha, Erdogan has fears of alienating her neighbors. The Turkish president will visit Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar during a two-day tour starting on Sunday.
According to official data, the UAE last year ranked seventh among the largest markets to receive Turkish goods exports by 5.4 billion dollars, while Saudi Arabia ranks 11th in the list and Egypt 13th. Turkey also wants to sell defense equipment to Saudi Arabia.
"This visit in some way will help to clarify that Turkey still has the ability to engage with other countries at the highest level, mainly Saudi Arabia, despite its position as a close ally of Doha," said Sinan Olgen, a former Turkish diplomat and analyst at the Carnegie Endowment.
But he said Ankara was negotiating a "standstill" because of its outspoken support for Qatar.
"With regard to how much Ankara can achieve and the effectiveness of the possible mediation role that Turkey may play, the expectations are very limited in this regard," he said.
• Strategic importance
The dispute has proved so far unresolved, Erdogan said before, that Saudi Arabia must resolve the crisis.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made shuttle visits between Gulf states last week but left without any clear sign of a near solution to the crisis. He said on Friday that the United States was satisfied with Qatar's efforts to implement an agreement aimed at combating the financing of terrorism and urged the four countries to lift the "road blockade" imposed on Doha.
Although Qatar is not a major trading partner of Turkey, it has strategic importance for several reasons, including Ankara's establishment of a military base there after an agreement signed in 2014. Turkey says up to 1,000 troops may be stationed there.
The two countries also have ideological links.
The four countries have called on Qatar to stop supporting groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which Gulf states view as a threat.
Erdogan, whose party is based in the political Islam movement, supported the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt before being ousted in 2013.
"There are visits and diplomatic efforts that took place before that visit, high-level talks were held ... there is an atmosphere where some concrete steps can be taken," a Turkish official said on condition of anonymity.
The Emir of Qatar on Friday called for dialogue to resolve the crisis and said any talks should respect national sovereignty. In his first speech since severing ties, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said his country was facing an unjust blockade, a sentiment strongly shared by Erdogan.
"Qatar is being treated with extreme cruelty," the Turkish official said. "It is important for the entire region to erase this injustice."