Qatar’s ruler reached out to Saudi Arabia in a bid to end the Gulf’s worst diplomatic crisis for years, Saudi state media said today, in a possible breakthrough after the US president offered to mediate. Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani , phoned Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to express interest in talks to resolve the three-month-old diplomatic crisis that has roiled the Gulf. Saudi Arabia led the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain in cutting ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of bankrolling Islamist extremist groups and of being too close to Iran. Doha denies the accusations. The crown prince “welcomed this desire,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, adding “details will be announced after Saudi Arabia reaches an agreement with UAE and Bahrain and Egypt”.
The development came after US President Donald Trump offered on Thursday to mediate in the crisis, saying he believed the dispute could be solved “fairly easily.” In Washington on Thursday, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al- Ahmad Al-Sabah, a key figure involved in mediation attempts, met Trump and gave an upbeat assessment of his efforts so far. But in a statement early yesterday, the Saudi-led bloc had showed no signs of backing down as it questioned the Kuwaiti emir’s statement that Qatar would be willing to accept their 13 demands.
The demands include shutting Doha-based broadcaster Al- Jazeera, closing a Turkish military base in the emirate and downgrading Qatari diplomatic ties with Iran. The bloc also voiced “regret” about the Kuwaiti ruler’s statement “on the success of mediation in stopping military intervention”. Instead, the four Arab states stressed that “the military option has not been and will not be considered” under any circumstances. Kuwait has emerged as a key mediator in the crisis, while the United States has given mixed signals on its policy.
Riyadh and Doha are both key allies of the United States. Trump, who chose Saudi Arabia for his first overseas visit as president in May, two weeks before the crisis erupted, immediately expressed staunch support for Saudi Arabia. Some other US officials including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have adopted a more measured tone. Tillerson and Sheikh Mohammed announced in July they had signed an agreement to fight terrorism, built on decisions made at a Riyadh summit in May to “wipe terrorism from the face of the Earth”.
Qatar hosts a huge US air base, home to the headquarters of Centcom — the regional command which leads operations against the Islamic State jihadist group. Last month Qatari and US paratroopers held a joint training exercise which American officials said reinforced “the enduring military-to-military” partnership between the two countries. Sheikh Tamim is set to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks on September 15, in what will be his first trip to a western capital since the crisis began.