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Phone call to ease Saudi-Qatar spat causes new problem

Qatar dismissed claims that call was organized organised at the request of Donald Trump

Zaid Sabah | Bloomberg 

Saudi Arabia, Qatar
Photo: Shutterstock

Saudi and Qatari leaders held direct talks for the first time since the start of the Gulf crisis three months ago, a breakthrough later undermined by a dispute over the details of the phone call.

Qatari ruler called Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the official news services in both countries. Sheikh Tamim “expressed his desire” to start a dialogue to discuss the demands of the four countries boycotting Qatar, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

But shortly after the statement, the kingdom dismissed Qatar’s claim that the call was organised at the request of US President and said it won’t hold further talks before a clarification is issued. “The call was at the request of Qatar to discuss its desire to talk to the four countries about their demands,” SPA reported.

The fresh dispute underscores the depth of the crisis that broke out in June when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar, an unprecedented move in the history of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. The Saudi-led bloc accuses Qatar of backing terrorism and has presented Sheikh Tamim with 13 demands that include shutting down Al Jazeera television and scaling back ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the boycott is an attempt to undermine its sovereignty.

Friday’s phone call took place after a separate conversation between Sheikh Tamim and Trump. The president also called Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed, according to SPA, but it wasn’t clear whether he made that call before or after the new dispute.

Trump has stepped up his efforts to resolve the crisis, which pits close US allies against each other. “I do believe we will solve it ,” he told a a White House news conference with the emir of Kuwait, Shiekh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah on Sept. 7. “If we don’t solve it, I will be a mediator right here in the White House” and “we will have something very quickly.”

The spat broke out shortly after Trump visited Saudi Arabia in May, where he called for concerted action against terrorism and accused Iran, which has close relations with Qatar, of fuelling instability in the region. Trump has urged all parties in the Qatar dispute to find a diplomatic resolution that in line with commitments made between the Arab leaders and Trump during his visit. 

First Published: Sat, September 09 2017. 23:18 IST