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Turkey wants to develop Gulf relations 'without distinction', says Erdogan

Turkish President embarks on two-day conference with close ally as he seeks to alleviate country's economic woes
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) receiving Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani (L) at the Vahdettin Mansion in Istanbul, 27 March (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that he wanted to develop Ankara's relations with Gulf countries "without distinction" as he began a two-day trip to Qatar.

"We will continue to develop our relations with our Gulf brothers, without any distinction, within the framework of our common interests and mutual respect," the Turkish leader said at a press conference in Istanbul before taking off for Doha, as he continues to thaw out relations with the Gulf states.

"We welcome the reopening of dialogue and diplomatic efforts to avoid misunderstandings in the Gulf region," he added.

Erdogan and Qatar's ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, longtime regional allies, will on Tuesday preside over the seventh Qatar-Turkey Supreme Strategic Committee.

Speaking to Al-Jazeera, Turkey’s ambassador to Qatar, Mustafa Goksu, said the summit would see a number of agreements signed in a range of fields between the two countries.

Turkey has been rocked by an economic crisis, which has been suggested as one of the reasons for the push to normalise ties with erstwhile rivals.

Qatar currently provides Turkey with the equivalent of $15bn in currency swaps, a limit that was raised from $5bn after talks in May 2020.

On Tuesday, a broadcast on state TV channel TRT of a press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was cut off after a Reuters journalist asked "did you come to Qatar to get money?"

'Worst enemy' turns ally

Erdogan welcomed Abu Dhabi's crown prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (known as MBZ) to Ankara in November, opening a new chapter in relations between yesterday's regional rivals.

This first meeting since 2012 aimed to iron out the many differences between the two leaders who both aspire to a leading regional role.

After the failed coup of July 2016, President Erdogan accused MBZ of being one of the instigators, calling him "Turkey's worst enemy".

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Ties deteriorated further in 2017 following the blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other neighbouring states.

Ankara supported Doha during the blockade and the two countries have since moved closer.

"The blockade and the sanctions imposed on Qatar have been lifted since the beginning of this year. At present, solidarity is restored between the Gulf countries," Erdogan said.

Erdogan also announced that he would pay a visit to Abu Dhabi in February.

Cavusoglu spoke on Monday with his Qatari counterpart before President Erdogan's arrival in Doha.

Afghanistan and the management of Kabul airport were among the topics of discussion, the Turkish minister announced.

"Qatar and Turkey are constantly working with the interim government in Afghanistan to reach an agreement to operate the airport," Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told reporters.