Qatar emir meets Erdogan in surprise Turkey visit

AFP , Thursday 12 Mar 2015

File Photo: In this photo provided by the Presidential Press Service, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, greets Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani during a ceremony at his new presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

The emir of Qatar on Thursday met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for surprise talks in the capital Ankara, a Turkish presidential official said.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was holding closed-door talks at Erdogan's newly built presidential palace in Ankara, the official told AFP, without elaborating further.

The meeting, which was not on Erdogan's official daily schedule, comes amid renewed tensions stemming from the presence of Islamic State (IS) militant in Iraq and Syria right up to the Turkish border.

Turkey and Qatar, both overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, have emerged as close allies in the last years during the conflict in Syria and Arab Spring uprisings.

They have closely aligned their policies on Syria and have also both intensively engaged with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

Qatar has been one of the main supporters of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has allowed demonstrations against him to be held in its capital, Doha.

However, some have accused the country of backing militants, a charge denied on several occasions by officials in the oil rich Gulf state, which joined the US-led coalition against extremists in Syria and Iraq.

A vocal outspoken of the regime in Damascus, Turkey has similarly backed opposition rebels fighting to topple Assad and plays host to nearly two million refugees.

But it has remained reluctant to take robust action against the militant threat in a US-led coalition, further straining ties with Washington, its NATO ally.

US special envoy John Allen, who is coordinating international efforts against IS, is due to travel to Ankara this week to meet with Turkish officials after a visit to Italy, the US State Department said in a statement.

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