Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu has insisted that Gulf troops in Bahrain must be temporary, saying it is important that political transformation take place without any foreign intervention.
Saudi Arabian troops, along with forces from other Gulf countries, rolled across the causeway into neighboring Bahrain last week to buttress the embattled Sunni royal family against protests by the island’s Shiite Muslim majority.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, speaking at a joint news conference with Davutoğlu late on Tuesday, said that foreign forces are only there to “protect state organs” and would be there for a “very limited” time. Davutoğlu said he is pleased to hear this.
Al-Khalifa paid a two-day visit to Turkey on Tuesday “to thank Turkey for its fair behavior and position” in recent unrest in the region. He had talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday.
Davutoğlu warned against sectarian clashes in the region, claiming they would harm the entire process of transformation. He noted that the civilian death toll and sectarian clashes are “unacceptable” for Turkey. The foreign minister said it is very important that the civilian population be protected and that civilians and security forces do not confront one another. “We hope that stability, territorial integrity, sovereignty and a strong economy will be sustained,” said Davutoğlu.
Al-Khalifa said Bahrain consulted Turkish officials to see how to position “[the] country against looming sectarian clashes, not only in Bahrain but in Iran and other parts of the world.” He added that it is necessary to reach a strategic agreement in order to take steps in that direction.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül on Wednesday warned against Sunni-Shiite clashes in the region, saying that such a “lack of prevision” in the Islamic world would exhaust both people and resources.
The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also had talks with Erdoğan and Davutoğlu in Ankara on Wednesday. The UAE is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council that sent troops to Bahrain at the request of Bahrain’s Sunni government.
In addition to Bahrain, the stance of Gulf countries is also important in regard to the situation in Libya, where a coalition of Western countries, led by France, the United States and Britain, have initiated air strikes on forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The UAE says it wants to join the military campaign but has so far refrained from doing so, protesting US and European criticism against its decision to send troops to Bahrain.
After days of heated debates in NATO, the alliance now seems close to a deal under which NATO’s technical assets, including its command-and-control mechanism, would be used in the Libya operation under the political guidance of a council of states, comprising NATO and Arab League states.