Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan denounced the isolation of Qatar by neighbouring states as a violation of Islamic values and akin to a “death penalty” imposed on Doha in a crisis that has reverberated across the Middle East and beyond.
Erdogan’s comments marked the strongest intervention yet by a powerful regional ally of Doha eight days after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar and imposed stringent economic sanctions on it.
Qatar denies their accusations that it supports Islamist militants and Shi’ite Iran, arch regional foe of the Sunni Gulf Arab monarchies.
“A very grave mistake is being made in Qatar, isolating a nation in all areas is inhumane and against Islamic values. It’s as if a death penalty decision has been taken for Qatar,” Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in Ankara.
“Qatar has shown the most decisive stance against the terrorist organization Islamic State alongside Turkey. Victimising Qatar through smear campaigns serves no purpose.”
The measures against Qatar, a small oil and gas exporter with a population of 2.7 million people, have disrupted imports of food and other materials and caused some foreign banks to scale back business.
Qatar, which imported 80 percent of its food from bigger Gulf Arab neighbors before the diplomatic shutdown, has been talking to Iran and Turkey to secure food and water.
The world’s second largest helium producer, Qatar has also shut its two helium production plants because of the economic boycott, industry sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Turkey has maintained good relations with Qatar as well as several of its Gulf Arab neighbors. Turkey and Qatar have both provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also criticized the measures imposed on Qatar, saying in Baghdad on Tuesday they were hurting the emirate’s people, not its rulers.
Gulf Arab states have issued no public demands to Qatar, but a list that has been circulating includes severing diplomatic ties with Iran, expulsion of all members of the Palestinian Hamas group and the Muslim Brotherhood, the freezing of all bank accounts of Hamas members, ending support for “terrorist organisations” and ending interference in Egyptian affairs.
Some analysts say demands could also include closing down satellite channel Al Jazeera, or changing its editorial policy.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister struck a slightly softer line in comments to reporters during a joint news conference in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, saying Riyadh was ready to send food and medical supplies to Qatar.