DOHA (Reuters) – Qatar held military exercises with Turkish troops on Monday, demonstrating one of its few strong alliances after two weeks of ostracism and economic isolation imposed by neighbours which accuse the U.S. ally of supporting terrorism.
Qatar’s state-funded pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera showed footage of a column of armoured personnel carriers moving through the streets.
It reported that additional Turkish troops had arrived in Qatar on Sunday for the exercises, although military sources in the region told Reuters the operation actually involved Turkish troops that were already present rather than new arrivals.
Turkey is one of the few powerful countries in the Middle East to stand squarely by Qatar after Saudi Arabia, Egypt and several other states proclaimed it a supporter of terrorism and cut off all economic and diplomatic ties.
Qatar, the world’s richest country per capita, has used its wealth over the past decade to exert outsized influence in the Middle East, backing factions in civil wars and revolts across the region.
It denies supporting terrorism and says it is being punished for straying from its neighbours’ political line of backing the region’s authoritarian hereditary and military rulers.
“The blockade has been ongoing for two weeks and the blockading nations have offered no formula for resolving the crisis,” Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed al-Thani, Director of Qatar’s Government Communications Office, said in a statement on Monday.
“It is unfortunate that our neighbours have chosen to invest their time and resources in a baseless propaganda campaign,” he said, calling the terrorism accusations a “publicity stunt”.