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Qatar diplomatic crisis

Qatar urges US intervention to resolve Gulf crisis as Turkey reiterates its support

US President Donald Trump has backed the Arab boycott of Qatar, even though it is home to a major US airbase

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 11:25am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 10:53pm

Qatar on Friday called on its ally the US to play a “vital role” in resolving an escalating dispute between the Gulf emirate and its neighbours.

Last month, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism, a charge Doha denies.

“The American role is vital as all parties to the conflict are allies of Washington,” Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said.

Kuwait, another Gulf country, has been acting as a mediator to resolve the crisis, one of the most serious in the region in recent years.

“The US administration plays an active role in supporting the efforts of the emir of Kuwait, but also committed to mediation between the conflicting parties,” Mohammed said at the Washington-based Arab Centre, according to the Qatari Foreign Ministry.

The American role is vital as all parties to the conflict are allies of Washington
Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani

US President Donald Trump has backed the Arab boycott of Qatar, even though it is home to a major US airbase. However, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week called for the countries locked in the dispute to sit down and discuss their differences.

“The American president could have made sure that the state of Qatar does not support terrorism if he listened to the US government departments which the state of Qatar deals with,” the Qatari official said. “These departments know the efforts of Qatar in the fight against terrorism.”

Last week, Qatar disclosed a list of 13 demands by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

The demands include downgrading ties with Iran, a regional rival of Saudi Arabia; stopping support for Islamist groups; and shutting down the Doha-based television broadcaster Al-Jazeera and its channels.

Meanwhile, Turkey on Friday said the rights of Qatar must be respected as it hosted the defence minister of Ankara’s main Gulf ally.

Khaled bin Mohammed al-Attiyah met with Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik at the defence ministry in Ankara, the state-run news agency Anadolu said on Thursday.

The meeting came as Ankara, which has stood by Doha during the crisis, resists pressure from Qatar’s neighbours to close a ­Turkish military base in the emirate.

In the talks, Isik said that “the current issues between the [Gulf] countries, who are brothers, must be resolved soon on the basis of a sincere dialogue and respect for Qatar’s rights”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the allegations levelled against Qatar are baseless and offered Ankara’s full support.

Turkey has provided food and other aid through hundreds of planes and a cargo ship, although Ankara’s tries to mediate between the sides have so far come to nothing.

Crucially, Ankara is also setting up a military base on the emirate that is set to give Turkey a new foothold in the Gulf, sending in a first deployment of two dozen troops.

The current issues between the [Gulf] countries ... must be resolved soon on the basis of a sincere dialogue
Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik

Erdogan has criticised the Saudi-led demands, saying the sweeping demands were “against international law” and that asking for the withdrawal of Turkish troops was a “disrespect to Turkey”.

Yet Ankara has also been careful not to directly criticise Riyadh and previously urged the kingdom to lead tries to solve the crisis.

Qatar has until Monday to comply with the demands or face diplomatic isolation in the long term, according to media reports.

Arab countries argued on Friday at a meeting of the World Trade Organisation that the group’s free trade rules can be suspended for Qatar, invoking an emergency clause to justify their blockade against the Gulf country.

Qatar said at the meeting that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are violating fundamental WTO rules, according to participants.

Speaking for these three countries, Bahrain countered that their measures are in line with Article XXI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which allows a country to take emergency “for the protection of its essential security interests”.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse