Turkey sends 3,000 police officers to Qatar to help secure World Cup

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ANKARA, Sept 23 (Reuters) – Turkey will send more than 3,000 riot police to Qatar to help secure World Cup stadiums and hotels in a security operation paid for by the competition organizers but under Turkish command, it said a source from Turkey’s Interior Ministry.

With a population of less than 3 million – of whom just 380,000 are Qatari nationals – Qatar is facing a staffing shortage as it prepares for the month-long FIFA football tournament.

It has turned to Turkey, its closest regional ally, to secure the competition, which is expected to attract an unprecedented 1.2 million visitors to the small but prosperous gas-exporting Gulf state.

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According to a protocol signed between the two countries and published in Turkey’s Official Gazette, Ankara will deploy 3,000 riot police and 100 special forces officers to Qatar, along with 50 bomb specialists and 80 sniffer and riot dogs.

“During the tournament, Turkish police will only take orders from their Turkish superiors who are temporarily serving in Qatar,” the Turkish source said. “The Qatari side will not be able to issue direct orders to the Turkish police.”

“All costs of deployed personnel … will be borne by the State of Qatar.”

The source did not specify who would have final oversight of Turkey’s security operation, which will include the eight stadiums hosting matches and hotels where the 32 national football teams will be staying.

The protocol agreement says Turkey will also send senior staff to lead the police teams and “a number of staff for coordination” as well as a “general coordinator”.

PAKISTAN OFFER

Turkey may not be the only country providing support.

Last month, Pakistan’s cabinet approved a draft agreement that would allow the government to provide troops for security at the tournament. It hasn’t said how many staff will be seconded, and neither country has said a final deal has been reached.

Qatar’s World Cup organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, did not respond to a request for comment.

Qatar is the first country in the Middle East to host a World Cup and the smallest nation to do so. It has no experience of hosting international events on such a scale.

Turkey welcomes tens of millions of tourists a year and has hosted a G20 leaders’ summit, Formula 1 racing and the UEFA Super Cup in recent years, but its security forces have also been criticized for cracking down on political protests.

Around 600 people were arrested in student demonstrations that started at a university in Istanbul last year. Authorities said the protesters violated a ban on public demonstrations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May, Turkish media reported that police in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir fired water cannons and pepper spray at fans who threw firecrackers at the police.

Turkish police going to Qatar will be taught English and given instructions on what to expect upon arrival in the Gulf state, the Turkish source said.

Nearly 800 Qataris have also been trained by Turkey on topics ranging from “sports safety” to “interference in social events,” the source added.

Turkey, which has a military base in Qatar, stood by its ally when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates boycotted Doha in 2017 – cutting all diplomatic and transport links with their neighbor amid a row over allegations that they supported terrorism and snuggled up to their enemy Iran.

The Gulf countries restored ties over the past year, and Turkey also made efforts to improve ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Written by Dominic Evans and Angus MacSwan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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