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Turkey sends military team to Qatar to evaluate troop deployments

Turkey sent a team of military experts to Qatar to evaluate troop deployments as several Arab countries continued to isolate the small Gulf country over allegations of supporting terror groups.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Turkish military said the country has sent a three-person team to scout and co-ordinate preparations for deployment.

The military said such military visits have been ongoing since 2015.

Turkey and Qatar have developed close ties over the years and reached agreement in 2014 to set up a Turkish military base there.

In a show of support for Qatar, the Turkish parliament and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rapidly passed legislation for increased military co-operation last week, which foresees troop deployment and military training.

Mr Erdogan criticised the effort to isolate Qatar, comparing the move to a "death penalty" for the country.

He reiterated his country's position to support Qatar and diplomatic engagement to help end the crisis in a speech to party members on Tuesday.

He said that Qatar has "practically been sentenced to the death penalty" and added that "it is neither humane nor Islamic to attempt to isolate a country's people in every area from food, to drink, to travel, to commerce, to worship".

Mr Erdogan called on the king of Saudi Arabia, one of the Arab and Muslim countries that severed ties with Qatar, to resolve the crisis.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister insisted there is no blockade on Qatar and says his country will provide food and medical supplies if needed.

Adel al-Jubeir said before a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Qatar's ports and airports are open.

He said Saudi Arabia has merely denied Qatar use of its airspace, which he says is his country's sovereign right.

Mr al-Jubeir said Qatar can move goods in and out "whenever they want", adding that Saudi Arabia has allowed families to move between countries.

Saudi Arabia has closed Qatar's sole land border and joined other countries in cutting off sea traffic, leading panicked residents to stockpile food.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's King Salman spoke to Russian president Vladimir Putin just days after Qatar's foreign minister was in Moscow to discuss the crisis.

Saudi Arabia's state news agency reported few details about the call on Tuesday, only saying the two leaders discussed bilateral relations and counter-terrorism efforts.

Russia's state-run Tass news agency says the two discussed "the growing tensions around Qatar".

Over the weekend, Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani was in Moscow following a telephone call between Mr Putin and Qatar's ruling emir Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani.

AP

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