Wednesday, January 24, 2018 | ePaper

Saudi Arabia suspends dialogue with Qatar after leaders talk on phone

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Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, phoned the Saudi Crown Prince to express interest in talks to resolve the three-month-old diplomatic crisis in the gulf.

Reuters,  Dubai :
Saudi Arabia on Saturday suspended any dialogue with Qatar, accusing it of "distorting facts", just after a report of a phone call between the leaders of both countries suggested a breakthrough in the Gulf dispute.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke by the telephone with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Friday when they discussed the Gulf dispute, state media from both countries reported earlier.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar on June 5, suspending air and shipping routes with the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, which is home to the region's biggest US military base.
The nations say Doha supports regional foe Iran and Islamists, charges Qatar's leaders deny. Kuwait has been trying to mediate the dispute.
"During the call, the Emir of Qatar expressed his desire to sit at the dialogue table and discuss the demands of the four countries to ensure the interests of all," Saudi state news agency SPA reported.
"The details will be announced later after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia concludes an understanding with the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Arab Republic of Egypt," SPA said.
The phone call was the first publicly reported contact between the two leaders since the start of the crisis.
Qatar's state news agency QNA said the phone call was based on coordination of US President Donald Trump who had earlier talked with Sheikh Tamim.
Trump on Thursday said he would be willing to step in and mediate the worst dispute in decades among the US-allied Arab states and Qatar, and said he thinks a deal could come quickly.
Both Qatar's Emir and the Saudi Crown Prince "stressed the need to resolve the crisis by sitting down to the dialogue table to ensure the unity and stability of the GCC countries," QNA reported. Sheikh Tamim welcomed the proposal of Prince Mohammed during the call "to assign two envoys to resolve controversial issues in a way that does not affect the sovereignty of the states," QNA said.
Saudi Arabia later issued a second statement citing an unnamed official at the ministry of the foreign affairs denying the QNA report.
"What was published on the Qatar News Agency is a continuation of the distortion of the Qatari authority of the facts," SPA reported citing the Saudi official.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announces the suspension of any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar until a clear statement is issued clarifying its position in public."
Despite the deadlock, observers said the telephone call between the Qatari and Saudi rulers itself was a sign that tensions were dissipating.
"The fact that the telephone call took place and the offer of dialogue was made is significant in itself," said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
"(It) signals a climb down from the brinkmanship that has characterised so much of the Gulf standoff since June," Ulrichsen told AFP.
But diplomatic efforts led by Kuwait, a key mediator in the crisis backed by Western powers, have so far failed to achieve a breakthrough.

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