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Saudi-Turkish ties strained over differing views on Qatar

June 18, 2017 (Photo Credit: Gurcan Ozturk/AFP via Getty Images)
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Ties between Saudi Arabia and Turkey have begun to fray due to sharply different policies toward Qatar.

Saudi Arabia has led other Arab nations in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar over allegations the small Gulf nation backs terror groups and that its policies, including its support for Islamist groups, threatens the region. Qatar denies it backs terror groups and says the decision to isolate it is politically motivated.

Turkey, which is a strong backer of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, has criticized the measures against Qatar and authorized the deployment of additional troops to Qatar in a show of support. Turkey also sent additional supplies of dairy products to Qatar's capital, Doha, after Saudi Arabia sealed shut Qatar's only land border, impacting a significant source of food imports.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held talks late Friday with Saudi Arabia's King Salman about the crisis engulfing Qatar. No statement was issued after their meeting.

Saudi tour guides Khalid Abdullah and Edris Ismail told The Associated Press on Sunday that some Saudis are cancelling planned visits to Turkey for the upcoming Muslim Eid holiday, which starts next week. Saudi Arabia says around 250,000 Saudis visited Turkey last year.

An Arabic hashtag on Twitter has also appeared calling for Saudis to cut ties with Turkey.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised eyebrows over the weekend when he said King Salman agreed to consider an offer to establish a Turkish military base in the kingdom alongside a Turkish base in Qatar.

In an interview aired Thursday with Portuguese broadcaster RTP, Erdogan said work on the Turkish base in Qatar began in 2014 with the aim of supporting regional security. Erdogan added that he had previously raised the possibility of a Turkish base in Saudi Arabia and said the Saudi king agreed to consider the offer.

The official Saudi Press Agency released a statement Saturday strongly rejecting any such offer.

"Saudi Arabia cannot allow Turkey to establish military bases on its territories," the statement, adding that the country "has no need for this."

Ties between Saudi Arabia and Turkey had become strained under King Salman's predecessor over Turkey's support for the Muslim Brotherhood during the height of Arab Spring protests. Those ties, however, had begun to improve under Salman after he aligned Saudi Arabia closer with Turkey and other Sunni Muslim countries in a bid to counter Shiite-ruled Iran.

Associated Press writer Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed to this report.
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