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Qatar crisis: UAE accused of bankrolling Turkey coup

Journalist close to Turkish state claims UAE spent $3bn on plot, while Turkish president calls Saudi-UAE-Bahrain blockade on Qatar 'inhumane'
Acet said all sources pointed to the UAE as backers of the coup plot (AFP)

The United Arab Emirates has been accused of financing last July’s failed coup attempt by a Turkish journalist known for his close ties to the government, as the Turkish president on Tuesday called on the Saudi king to resolve the "inhumane" Qatar crisis.

The UAE channelled around $3bn to coup plotters and was keen to see Recep Tayyip Erdogan toppled, according to Mehmet Acet, the Ankara bureau chief of pro-government broadcaster Kanal 7, who also has a column in the pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper.

Acet based his claims on remarks attributed to the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, about six months ago at an invitation-only panel in Istanbul.

Questions I asked (sources) later all said the country in question was the UAE

- Mehmet Acet, journalist

Based on Acet’s account, Cauvusoglu at that panel discussion said "we know that a country gave $3bn in support of the attempted coup in Turkey to topple the government illegally. And it was a Muslim country that did this."

"Questions I asked (sources) later all said the country in question was the UAE," Acet wrote.

Arab Spring fallout

The UAE and Turkey fell out after adopting opposing positions during the Arab Spring, specifically over Egypt.

Ankara gave full backing to the democratically elected Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, while Abu Dhabi did all it could to topple him and backed Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who assumed power after carrying out a coup.

For a few years, Turkish bureaucrats have been alleging, in off-the-record comments, UAE interference in Turkish domestic affairs - either directly or through certain Palestinian proxies based in the UAE.

The UAE is also accused by Turkish officials of trying to undermine Turkey on the international stage wherever possible.

Ankara restored its frayed relations with Saudi Arabia after the incumbent King Salman came to power, but ties with the UAE and Egypt remain frosty.

The current siege against Qatar, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, also has its roots in the different positions adopted during the Arab Spring.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed relations with Doha last week, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and Iran - allegations it says are baseless. Some observers believe the Saudi-led move has US backing. 

'Grave mistake'

Turkey was quick to come to defend its ally Qatar and on Tuesday Erdogan urged the Saudi king to take the lead and resolve the crisis.

"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 lawmakers from his AKP party in parliament. "I call on the Saudi king as one of the region’s elders to resolve this crisis."

Erdogan is also due to discuss the Qatar crisis with US President Donald Trump over the phone within the next few days, according to Cavusoglu.

As part of its backing for Doha, the Turkish government prioritised and pushed through legislation in parliament last week ratifying an agreement to establish a joint military base and train Qatari troops in the Gulf state.

The Turkish military on Tuesday said a three-person team had been sent to a base in Qatar to conduct reconnaissance and determine and coordinate requirements before troop deployments. 

The joint base in Qatar was established in 2016 and is not fully staffed.
Turkey-UAE crisis?

During his weekend visit to Turkey, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, sought – and received – assurances from Turkish officials that the Turkish base and troops would not be used in this crisis between Qatar and its neighbours, according to local media reports.

Ankara has also mobilised to meet Qatari food requirements after supply was disrupted due to the blockade on the country. Qatari supermarket shelves now stock many Turkish products and the Ankara government sees it as an opportunity to seize a bigger and permanent slice of the estimated $5.5bn Qatari food market.

Erdogan has called for the Qatar crisis to be resolved before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends on 24 June.

But with Erdogan himself last Friday suggesting that he was aware of “how certain Gulf countries rejoiced during the night of the attempted coup in Turkey” and “we know very well the kind of money that was spent” a direct crisis between the UAE and Turkey could be on the horizon regardless of a resolution to the Qatar dispute.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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