Pro-Erdogan paper attacks Qatar’s Al Jazeera English, Doha over Syria coverage

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A Turkish newspaper affiliated with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at Qatari-owned channel Al Jazeera English and called for Turkey to withdraw support for Doha due to the channel’s coverage of Turkey’s operations in northeastern Syria.

“Al Jazeera English, Qatar’s flagship news channel, has been spreading anti-Turkey propaganda,” stated the Daily Sabah’s online editorial on Monday.

Pointing to Al Jazeera English’s “Turkey-bashing” coverage of Ankara’s ongoing military operation in northeastern Syria, the editorial alleged that “the network has succumbed to bias and fake news to misportray known terrorists and fugitives from law as oppressed activists,” referring to the Kurdish-led forces which Turkey is trying to remove from northeastern Syria.

Turkey’s operation has been widely criticized by media and global leaders alike, with several countries halting arms sales to Ankara over its self-declared plans to change the demographics of northeastern Syria.

“Al Jazeera English, like Western outlets where some of its employees used to serve, refused to provide factual realities in the region. Instead, it reproduced the talking points of certain Western governments and the terrorist group they sponsor, on air,” alleged the paper.

In response to Al Jazeera English’s reportedly “hostile” coverage, the Daily Sabah questioned Turkey’s relations with Qatar and suggested that Ankara should withhold support for its regional ally if Al Jazeera English continued to criticize Turkish policy.

RELATED: Turkey’s FM thanks Qatar Emir for ‘support’ to military operation in Syria

“In light of Al Jazeera English’s complicity in the smear campaign against Turkey, the Turkish people cannot be expected to support Qatar against countries, with which Turkey could easily join forces,” read the editorial.

“Until the network takes necessary steps, the Turkish government must consider Al Jazeera English a hostile outlet. If Qatar wants to burn bridges with a key ally so that a handful of second-tier activists and washed-up Westerners can feel important, then Turkey has no reason to have Doha’s back,” it concluded.

Commenting on the issue, Aykan Erdemir, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish parliament, told Al Arabiya English: “Erdogan’s diplomatic isolation again came to the fore during Turkey’s cross-border operation into northeast Syria, as Qatar, Pakistan, and Hamas ended up being the only actors that declared their support for Ankara’s military campaign.”

“Doha’s support early on helped solidify the partnership between Turkey and Qatar further. However, the bilateral relations were strained following Al Jazeera English’s recent critical coverage of the Turkish incursion. Erdogan responded through explicit threats against Doha in his mouthpiece media outlets. It is too early to say whether the rift between Turkey and Qatar will deepen. For the time being, Erdogan’s immediate goal is to silence rare critical voices coming out of Al Jazeera English. I do not expect Turkish or Qatari leaders to escalate the current crisis further, since they are both diplomatically isolated and need one another more than ever.”

Foundation for Defense of Democracies is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Qatar is currently being boycotted by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE over a range of issues, including its support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

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