Erdogan claims Turkish troops in Qatar are for 'peace and stability'

Turkey's president held talks with Qatari emir in Doha on Wednesday

This handout photograph released by the Turkish Presidential Press Service on October 6, 2020 shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) meeting with Qatar's ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in the capital Doha.  - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/ TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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Turkey's military presence in Qatar is to ensure peace in the region and should not be a cause for alarm, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed on Thursday, after a visit to the Gulf state.

Mr Erdogan held talks with the Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim, in Doha on Wednesday after visiting Kuwait to offer condolences on the death of Sheikh Sabah, who had ruled the country since 2006.

“The presence of Turkish troops in Qatar is to ensure peace and stability not only for Qatar but also for the Gulf region,” Mr Erdogan told Turkish state broadcaster TRT.

Turkey signed a security agreement with Qatar in 2015 and started sending troops there in June 2017.

That was after fellow Gulf states Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, along with Egypt, announced a boycott of Doha because of its interference in their internal affairs and its support for terrorist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Erdogan said no party should be bothered by Turkey’s military presence in Qatar "except for those seeking to spread chaos".

He said last November that a Turkish military base built near Doha as part of the security agreement was complete and hosting about 5,000 troops.

Qatar also hosts the largest US military base in the region, Al Udeid Air Base, which is home to about 8,000 US service members and Department of Defence civilian employees.

Doha recently submitted a formal request to the US to buy F-35 stealth fighter jets, Reuters reported.

But sale of the advanced warplanes must satisfy a decades-old agreement with Israel that states any US weapons sold to the region must not impair Israel's "qualitative military edge".

The US State Department said it could not discuss such matters until they were put before Congress, which must approve all major defence sales.

Arms sales to Qatar have often raised concerns about its links to the Palestinian movement Hamas, but in the case of the F-35 it could be a deal breaker, a source said.

The US last year blocked the sale of F-35 jets to Turkey, a Nato ally, in after Ankara's decision to buy the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.

Turkey has also angered western allies and Arab states with its regional action, including military interventions in northern Iraq and the civil wars in Syria and in Libya.

In Libya, Ankara and Doha have given military support to the Tripoli-based government, despite widespread condemnation from much of the international community.

On Wednesday, Turkish Parliament approved the extension of military operations in northern Syria and northern Iraq until October 30 next year.

Turkey says US-backed Kurdish militias in northern Syria are linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

The party, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and several European countries, has bases in northern Iraq.