Erdogan rejects Arab demands; Turkish troops stay in Qatar

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s president on Sunday rejected a demand by major Arab states to remove Turkish troops from Qatar, among a sweeping list of ultimatums that the United States has described as “difficult to meet.”

Speaking after Eid al-Fitr prayers in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the demand to pull the Turkish troops “disrespectful” and said his country would not seek permission from others when making its defense cooperation agreements.

“Demanding that Turkey pull its soldiers is unfortunately also disrespectful toward Turkey,” he said.

He said Turkey would continue to support Qatar against the many sanctions it has faced since several Arab countries moved earlier this month to isolate the country for its alleged support of terrorism. Turkey shipped suppliers and food via cargo planes to Qatar after its neighbors closed down air, land and sea routes.

The United States said the demands on Qatar by its Mideast neighbors “will be very difficult to meet.” But the U.S. isn’t rejecting the demands outright.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson added in a statement Sunday, however, that the list of demands from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates includes major areas that “provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to a resolution.”

He called on the Arab countries to “sit together” with Qatar to work through what he hoped would be “reasonable and actionable” demands.

In a sign of support, the Turkish parliament swiftly ratified a 2014 military agreement with Qatar earlier this month, allowing the deployment of troops to its base there. The military said a contingent of 23 soldiers reached Doha on Thursday. Turkey has also shipped supplies and food via cargo planes after

Erdogan said he made a similar offer to Saudi Arabia to set up a base there in the past but did not hear back from the king.

A Turkish foreign ministry statement Sunday reiterated that the deployment of Turkish troops in Qatar contributed to regional security and was…

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