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Turkey's Erdogan Dismisses Charges Qatar Backs Terrorism, Pledges Aid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on June 9 dismissed charges that Qatar supports terrorism and called for an end of the economic blockade on the small Persian Gulf nation by its Arab neighbors.

U.S. President Donald Trump once again accused Qatar on June 9 of being "a funder of terrorism at a very high level," while a group of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia on June 8 issued a list of Qatar-linked people and organizations it said were "terrorists" as they ratcheted up their boycott of the peninsular state.

Included on the "terrorist" list were the Egyptian leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yousef al-Qaradawi, and 12 Qatari-funded charities. Turkey, like Qatar, has supported the Muslim Brotherhood, which led an elected government in Egypt in 2013 but was ousted from power by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

"Until today I have not witnessed Qatar give support to terror," Erdogan said in Istanbul, adding that the Arab states "declare foundations established to provide different services as terror organizations. Something like this should not happen. I know those foundations."

Erdogan said Turkey will accelerate plans to deploy troops to Qatar and ensure it has food and medicine despite the cutoff of all land, air, and sea links with Doha by Saudi Arabia and several Arab nations aligned with Riyadh.

Doha's foreign minister on June 9 called the sanctions imposed by other Arab states an "unjust siege" which violates international law, and called for dialogue between the two sides to resolve the dispute.

While Trump continued to side with the Saudis in their standoff with Qatar, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on June 9 called for an easing of the Arab blockade -- a split that Erdogan picked up on.

"I say it should be lifted completely," he said.

Erdogan said Saudi Arabia, as the dominant Arab state in the Gulf region, should be leading efforts to unite the Arab "fraternity" there rather than dividing it.

Erdogan signed legislation to deploy troops to a Turkish air base in Qatar in a show of support for Doha, while pledging to establish a lifeline of food and medicine for the isolated nation.

"There are those who are uncomfortable with us standing by our Qatari brothers, providing them with food. I'm sorry, we will continue to give Qatar every kind of support," he said.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters