Trump eases Qatar critique, offers to mediate Gulf spat

Elias Hubbard
June 9, 2017

Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Egypt and Bahrain are among several states that this week cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, in the worst crisis to hit the Gulf in recent years.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani said Qatar's ruling emir will not leave the country while it is "in blockade", effectively meaning he can not take up Trump's offer of mediation, following the president's change of mind.

"There were attempts made on the cyber security of Al Jazeera but we are combatting them and now all our entities are operational", said a senior employee who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

A senior UAE official accused Qatar of escalating the row by seeking help from Turkey and Iran. Qatar's ambitious plans to export natural gas across the region are being viewed warily in the region owing to its geostrategic implications which worries Saudi Arabia. That base, the AL Udeid Air Base is the main regional center for U.S. air missions in the ongoing fight against Daesh.

Qatar is on a peninsula, sharing one land border with Saudi Arabia - which is now closed - and otherwise surrounded by the Gulf.

Qatar also is the home to the regional headquarters of US Central Command (CENTCOM), which is responsible for the wars in Middle East. CENTCOM has said its operations have not been interrupted since the crisis erupted earlier this week.

Arab states have no right to "blockade" Qatar, the country's top diplomat said Thursday, insisting the campaign by Saudi Arabia and its allies to isolate the tiny, energy-rich nation is based on "false and fabricated news".

Qatar's credit rating was lowered on Wednesday, in the latest fallout from the decision by a group of neighbouring countries to cut diplomatic and trade ties. That's even after Kuwait's emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah flew to Qatar to discuss the crisis with officials.

"We believe this will exacerbate Qatar's external vulnerabilities and could put pressure on its economic growth and fiscal metrics", S&P said.

He said a Saudi friend of his living in Qatar had sent his child to Riyadh for a family visit before the embargo and now he does not know what to do.

"We have great confidence in the president's ability to calm this crisis and to resolve it", Al Thani said in an interview.

Like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Qatar is a member of the GCC and of the oil-cartel OPEC.

Authorities tried to calm nerves on Wednesday, releasing a video showing a shop with shelves brimming with food and reassuring Qataris - the wealthiest people in the world per capita - that their quality of life would not be hit. Nevertheless, Doha will find it hard to endure the isolation because of its possible economic cost and adverse impacts on its gas exports and foreign trade.

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani gives a press conference in Doha, on June 8, 2017. Asked if Washington should shutter the Al-Udeid base, Gargash said for the moment that "is not an issue for us".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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