* Erdogan says Qatar isolation a big mistake
* Putin discusses Gulf crisis in phone call with Saudi King
* Moroccan foreign minister on Gulf visit over crisis
By Ercan Gurses and Aziz El Yaakoubi
ANKARA/DUBAI, June 13 Turkish President Tayyip
Erdogan denounced the isolation of Qatar by neighbouring states
as a violation of Islamic values and tantamount to a "death
penalty" against Doha in a crisis reverberating through 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 the allegations of supporting Islamist
militants and Iran.
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 neighbours before the diplomatic shutdown, has also
been talking to Iran and Turkey to secure food and water.
"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 showed the most decisive stance against terrorist
organisation Islamic State alongside Turkey. Victimising Qatar
through smear campaigns serves no purpose."
Turkey has maintained good relations with Qatar as well as
several of its Gulf Arab neighbours. Turkey and Qatar have both
provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and backed
rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Gulf Arab states have issued no public demands; but a list
that has been circulating includes severance of diplomatic
relations with Iran, expulsion of all members of the Palestinian
Hamas group and of the Muslim Brotherhood, the freezing of all
bank accounts of Hamas members, ending support for “terrorist
organizations” and ceasing interference in Egyptian affairs.
Some analysts say demands could also include closing down
satellite channel Al Jazeera, or changing its editorial policy.
There has been no breakthrough from Kuwaiti efforts to
mediate in the crisis, but a U.S. official in the region said
Kuwait was continuing with what is seen as a "slow, painstaking,
deliberate" process focused inside the GCC.
"The parties are still defining what it is they want out of
this confrontation...It's difficult to conduct negotiations if
you don't really know what everybody wants. So there is an
assessment phase going on right now."
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Thani said on
Monday Doha "still had no clue" why Arab states had cut ties
with his country. He denied Doha supported groups like the
Muslim Brotherhood that its neighbours oppose, or had warm ties
with their enemy Iran.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Erdogan would
discuss the Gulf rift in a telephone call with U.S. President
Donald Trump in coming days, but gave no specific time.
Turkey last week approved plans to deploy more troops to a
military base it has established in Qatar under a 2014 agreement
with the Gulf Arab state. The move was seen as support by
regional power and NATO member Turkey to Doha.
In Moscow, the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin and
Saudi Arabia's King Salman discussed the Qatar crisis in a phone
call on Tuesday. The Kremlin said that the row was not helping
to unite efforts to try to find a Syria settlement or fight
Morocco has also waded into the crisis, announcing it was
sending plane-loads of food supplies to Doha as part of its
Islamic duty during Ramadan.
Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita was also in the
Gulf on a mission by King Mohammed to try to mediate.
A diplomatic source in the region said Bourita had met with
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan in
Abu Dhabi on Monday and was due in Kuwait on Tuesday. He was
also expected to fly to Jeddah for talks with Saudi officials on
So far, the measures against Qatar do not seem to have
caused serious shortages of supplies in shops.
Some people have even joked about being "blockaded" inside
the world's richest country: a Twitter page called "Doha under
siege" pokes fun at the prospect of readying "escape yachts",
stocking up on caviar and trading Rolex watches for espresso.
But an economic downturn could have more dire consequences
for the vast majority of Qatar's 2.7 million residents, who are
not citizens but foreign workers.
Migrant labourers make up 90 percent of Qatar's population,
mostly unskilled and dependent on construction projects such as
building stadiums for the 2022 soccer World Cup.
(Reporting by Ercan Gurses and Ece Toksaba in Ankara,
additional reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Sylvia Westall in
Dubai, and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow, Writing by Sami Aboudi;
editing by Ralph Boulton)