Qatar 'to hold joint military exercises' with US and Turkey

Qatar 'to hold joint military exercises' with US and Turkey
Qatar's defence minister has said Doha will conduct joint military exercises with allies the United States and Turkey.

2 min read
25 July, 2017
Doha has categorically denied allegations of backing extremists [Getty]
Qatar will conduct joint military exercises with allies the United States and Turkey as pressure mounts for the four Arab states boycotting Doha to end their blockade.

Defence Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah made the comments in an hour-long interview with Russia Today's Arabic service aired on Monday.

"Joint exercises will take place between the three countries – Qatar, Turkey and America – in Qatar… they are on the verge of happening and the preparations are taking place right now," Attiyah said.

Qatar is home to a Turkish military base, which the Saudi-led bloc have demanded Doha close, as well as the US military's largest air base in the region, al-Udeid.

Last month, the Qatari military held drills separately with the US Navy and Turkish troops deployed to the gas-rich emirate in the wake of the diplomatic crisis.

Attiyah said that Qatar would not engage in talks the boycotting countries until they lifted the blockade imposed on the country.

"Lifting the siege should precede any dialogue. If the blockade countries remain reluctant to lift the siege, Qatar will be compelled to resort to the available international legal procedures to lift it," the defence minister said.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar over unsubstantiated claims it has backed extremism and fostered ties with Iran.

Doha has categorically denied the allegations.

Attiyah stressed that a future agreement with four Arab states must not affect the "national sovereignty of Qatar".

He also praised Russia's clear position throughout the crisis supporting lifting the siege imposed on the Gulf nation.

Saudi Arabia and its allies unveiled a "terrorist" blacklist on Tuesday of 18 organisations and individuals suspected of links with Islamist extremism that they said had ties with Qatar.

The move by the four Arab governments comes despite mounting international pressure to compromise in their weeks-old boycott of their fellow US ally.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who last week spent four days in the region trying to broker a settlement of the crisis, has voiced satisfaction with Qatar's efforts to address any suspicion of terror funding.