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Erdogan sees progress in Qatar crisis, says more time needed

ANKARA -UNS : Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said his visit to the Gulf region made a contribution to easing the crisis surrounding Ankara’s ally Qatar, but indicated that more time was needed to end the standoff.

Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia and Kuwait at the weekend before heading to Qatar earlier Monday for talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in a trip aimed at defusing the crisis.

Erdogan has voiced support for Kuwait’s mediation efforts, a possible indication that Ankara sees the emirate as the key to resolving the crisis.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar accusing it of backing extremism and fostering ties with their Shiite rival Iran.

Doha denies the claims and has been strongly backed by Ankara throughout the standoff.

The crisis has put Turkey in a delicate position and Erdogan had hoped his visit would help ease a crisis which he had described as not being in “anyone’s interest”.

“I think that our visit and contacts (in the region) have been an important step on the way to rebuilding stability and mutual confidence,” he told reporters at Ankara airport after returning from Qatar.

But he cautioned: “Of course it’s easy to demolish something, what is hard is to again rebuild something that has been demolished.

“And in relations between states this takes more time and trouble,” he added.

Throughout the crisis Turkey has sought to balance its strategic alliance with Qatar with preserving its own relations with regional kingpin Saudi Arabia.

Crucially, Turkey is in the throes of setting up a military base in Qatar, its only such outpost in the region. It has sped up the process since the crisis began and reportedly now has 150 troops at the base.

Erdogan said the base had come up in the talks in Doha and also praised what he said was Qatar’s “positive attitude” in trying to solve the crisis.

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