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

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ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey will send more than 3,000 riot police to Qatar to help secure World Cup stadiums and hotels, a source at the Turkish Interior Ministry said, in a security operation pushed by the competition hosts but under Turkish command.

With a population of less than 3 million – of whom only 380,000 are Qatari nationals – Qatar faces a staff shortage as it prepares for its month-long soccer tournament.

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

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Under a protocol signed between the two countries and published in the Turkish Official Gazette, Ankara will deploy 3,000 riot police and 100 special operations police to Qatar, along with 50 bomb specialists and 80 sniffer and riot dogs.

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

“All the expenses of deployed personnel … will be borne by the State of Qatar,” he added.

The source did not specify who will ultimately supervise the security operation in Turkey, which will cover the eight stadiums where matches will be held and the hotels where the 32 national football teams will stay.

The protocol agreement states that Turkey will also send senior personnel to head the police teams and a “number of personnel to coordinate” as well as one “general coordinator”.

Pakistan show

Turkey may not be the only country providing support.

Pakistan’s cabinet last month approved a draft agreement that would allow the government to provide security forces for the tournament. He did not say how many personnel would be sent, and neither country said a final agreement had 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 the World Cup, and the smallest country to do so, with no prior experience of hosting international events of this size.

Turkey receives tens of millions of tourists annually and has hosted the G20 leaders’ summit, the Formula 1 race and the European Super Cup in recent years, but its security forces have also faced criticism for crackdowns on political protests.

About 600 people were arrested last year during student demonstrations that began at an Istanbul university. Authorities said the protesters had violated the ban on public demonstrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

The Turkish source said that Turkish police heading to Qatar are taught English and instructed on what to expect upon their arrival in the Gulf state.

The source added that Turkey had trained nearly 800 Qataris in topics ranging from “sports safety” to “interference in social events.”

Turkey, which has a military base in Qatar, sided with its ally when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates boycotted Doha in 2017 – severing all diplomatic and transport links with its neighbor in a dispute over allegations that it supports terrorism and has been enthusiastic about it. Their enemy is Iran.

Gulf states restored ties last year, and Turkey has also moved to improve ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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Reporting from ACE Toksabay. Written by Dominic Evans and Angus McSwan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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