Erdogan’s comments marked the strongest intervention yet by a powerful regional ally of Doha eight days after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar and applied stringent economic sanctions on it.
Later on Tuesday, the UAE ambassador to the United States, which has an air base in Qatar, said there was no military component to the steps taken against Doha.
Qatar denies accusations that it supports Islamist militants and Shi’ite Iran, arch regional foe of the Sunni Gulf Arab monarchies.
“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 members of his ruling AK Party in Ankara.
“Qatar has shown the most decisive stance against the terrorist organisation Islamic State alongside Turkey. Victimising Qatar through smear campaigns serves no purpose.”
The measures against Qatar, a small oil and gas exporter with a population of 2.7 million people, have disrupted imports of food and other materials and caused some foreign banks to scale back business.
The UAE envoy, Yousef Al Otaiba, told reporters in Washington: “There is absolutely no military component to anything that we are doing.”
“I have spoken and seen (U.S. Defense Secretary) General (Jim) Mattis four times in the last week; we’ve given them our complete assurance that the steps we have taken will not affect in anyway Al Udeid base or any operations supporting or regarding the base,” Otaiba said.
Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar is home to more than 11,000 U.S. and coalition forces and an important base for the fight against Islamic State militants in the region.
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, told a Senate hearing that the rift between Qatar and its neighbours was not affecting U.S. military operations.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, June 13, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS
Qatar, which imported 80 percent of its food from bigger Gulf Arab neighbours before the diplomatic shutdown, has been talking to Iran and Turkey to secure food and water.
The world’s second largest helium producer, Qatar has also shut its two helium production plants because of the economic boycott, industry sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Turkey has maintained good relations with Qatar as well as several of its Gulf Arab neighbours. Turkey and Qatar have both provided support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also criticised the measures imposed on Qatar, saying in Baghdad on Tuesday they were hurting the emirate’s people, not its rulers.