Arab split: Qatar's isolation by its neighbours exacerbates Middle East tensions

Nick Mcbride
June 7, 2017

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday that the economic measures should persuade Qatar to change its policies and behave "like a normal country". Trump met with leaders from Arab and Muslim nations there and he says Tuesday that "they said they would take a hard line on funding extremism".

Jordan will downgrade its diplomatic representation with Qatar, it said on Tuesday, after examining the "cause of the crisis" between Doha and several other Arab states. The White House hopes to see the issue "de-escalated" and "resolved immediately", he said.

A Turkish presidential source said earlier that Erdogan had also spoken with leaders of Qatar, Russia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia on lowering the tension.

Trump publicly accused key regional ally Qatar of funding extremism, while tacitly backing a blockade of the emirate, home to the Al-Udeid Air Base near Doha where around 10,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed.

The latest evidence: Two weeks ago, Qatar's state-run news agency published remarks allegedly made by the country's emir that called Iran "a regional and Islamic power that can not be ignored".

Speaking in Paris, he called on Qatar's rulers to end their support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian militant group Hamas and what he called "hostile media".

It was unclear how Trump's broadside against Qatar might affect the USA -led coalition fighting IS. Qatar has denied the allegations.

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The official said that given the turmoil, Qatar's leaders may try to reassure U.S. central command that Al-Udeid operations are secure to keep Trump from backing dramatic Saudi action.

It's not yet clear whether the U.S. has tracked the hackers in the Qatar incident to Russian criminal organizations or to the Russian security services blamed for the USA election hacks.

Energy-rich Qatar has long had strained ties with its neighbours but the move by Riyadh and its supporters raised fears of more volatility in the region.

"Families in the GCC region are intertwined and related to each other through marriage, friendship, and business, among others", Farhan al-Sayed told Gulf Times.

Trump's blunt remarks cast the anti-Islamist speech he gave at a Riyadh summit in May as the inspiration for a decision by Arab powers to sever ties and transport links to Qatar in protest at what they say is its support for terrorism.

A year ago during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Obama administration officials raised the issue of Saudi funding to build mosques in Europe and Africa that are helping to spread an ultra-conservative strain of Islam.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani also told Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera that his nation rejected those "trying to impose their will on Qatar or intervene in its internal affairs".

Other reports by VgToday

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