Riyadh says no to Turkish military base

JEDDAH • Saudi Arabia said yesterday a Turkish military base similar to that built in neighbouring Qatar would not be welcome in the kingdom, insisting it is "not needed", reported Agence France-Presse.

Riyadh's statement came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly said he had offered to build a military base in the kingdom shortly after work began on Turkey's facility in Qatar.

Ankara is at the forefront of efforts to defuse a diplomatic crisis that led Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, as well as Egypt and other countries, to sever ties with Qatar, which is a strong ally of Turkey.

"The kingdom cannot allow Turkey to set up a military base on its territory," said a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

The statement, quoting an unnamed official, said Saudi Arabia "does not need such a thing", adding that its armed forces and military capabilities were "at the best standards".

The official also said Saudi armed forces were participating abroad, including from Turkey's Incirlik base, "in the fight against terrorism and protecting security and stability in the region".

Mr Erdogan told Portuguese television last week that he had approached the Gulf state's King Salman "with the same idea for Saudi" after work began on the base in Qatar in 2014.

The Turkish Parliament approved the deployment of troops to the base in Qatar only two days after the Gulf crisis broke out earlier this month.

Last Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held talks with King Salman as part of Ankara's efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis.

Asked by Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency if the talks had found a solution, Mr Cavusoglu replied: "No. There are other countries involved... It's very complicated at the moment."

Mr Cavusoglu said he told the Saudi king that "it would be useful now to soften the conditions" against Qatar.

Meanwhile, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said yesterday a Western monitoring mechanism would be needed to force Qatar to abide by any agreement to end its alleged support for terrorism.

It was the first suggestion from any of the countries blockading the Gulf state that outside intervention may be needed to end the crisis, The Guardian newspaper said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 18, 2017, with the headline 'Riyadh says no to Turkish military base'. Print Edition | Subscribe