Kuwaiti emir trying to mediate row between Persian Gulf Arab states
The Kuwaiti emir has engaged in shuttle diplomacy to help mediate a solution to the dispute between Qatar on the one side and Saudi Arabia and its allies on the other, the biggest diplomatic crisis to hit the Persian Gulf region in years.
Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported on Tuesday that Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al Sabah had paid a “brotherly visit” to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi state news agency reported that King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Sheikh Sabah discussed the development of events in the region,” but gave no further details.
Additionally, Kuwait’s Al-Araby Al-Jadeed website said that the Kuwaiti emir was expected to travel to the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi, and then to Doha.
Qatar had earlier welcomed mediation to resolve the crisis.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates broke off relations with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region. They also suspended all land, air and sea traffic with Qatar, ejected its diplomats and ordered Qatari citizens to leave their countries.
Libya, the Maldives, the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, and Yemen’s former government also followed suit to cut ties with Qatar.
Jordan further downgraded its diplomatic relations with Qatar.
Meanwhile, Qabon also joined voices with the Saudi regime and its allies, condemning Qatar for “failing to respect international commitments and agreements on counter-terrorism.”
Gabon’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the African country was “preoccupied with Qatar’s continuing support for terrorist groups.”
UAE threatens sympathizers with Qatar
On Wednesday, the UAE banned people from publishing any expressions of sympathy with Qatar, saying the offenders would face a jail term of up to 15 years. The UAE-based Gulf News daily quoted Emirati Attorney General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi as threatening the sympathizers with Doha with strict measures.
“Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form,” Shamsi was cited as saying.
On top of a possible jail term, offenders would also be ordered to pay a fine of at least 500,000 dirhams (over $136,000), Gulf News said, citing Arabic-language media.
Qatar long has denied funding extremists, with Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, rejecting those “trying to impose their will on Qatar or intervene in its internal affairs.”
The top Qatari diplomat also said Kuwait’s ruler had asked Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in a phone call to hold off on delivering a speech about the crisis late Monday night and give the diplomatic efforts a chance to the diplomatic efforts aimed at soothing tensions.
The call came after a senior Saudi royal arrived in Kuwait with a message from the Saudi king. An Omani diplomat traveled to Qatar on Monday.
Putin, Qatari emir talk over phone
Additionally on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a phone conversation with the Qatari emir.
During the phone call, Putin reaffirmed Moscow’s “position in favor of settling crisis situations by political and diplomatic means, through dialogue,” the Kremlin said.
Trump reveals role in the dispute
In another development on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump waded into the row and signaled support for efforts to isolate Qatar.
The rupture in ties with Qatar came after a visit by Trump to Riyadh.
“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off,” he tweeted in reference to his trip to Riyadh last month. “They said they would take a hard line on funding… extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”
Riyadh pressures Doha
Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Qatar must take several steps, including ending its alleged support for the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, to restore ties with Persian Gulf Arab countries.
“We want to see Qatar implement the promises it made a few years back with regard its support of extremist groups, regards its hostile media and interference in affairs of other countries,” Jubeir said in Paris.
The top Saudi diplomat further accused Qatar of undermining the Palestinian Authority and Egypt through its support of Hamas and the Muslim brotherhood.
“We don’t think this is good. Qatar has to stop these policies so that it can contribute to stability in the Middle East,” he said.
Asked about the possibility of using military measures should Qatar not change course, Jubeir replied, “I hope not.”
Hamas slams Jubeir’s rant
Hamas said in a statement that Jubeir’s comments were against the international law as well as positions of Arabic and Muslim countries, reiterating Palestinian people’s right to resist for their country’s freedom.
The resistance movement also warned that the Israeli regime would abuse Jubeir’s remarks to commit more crimes against Palestinian nation and land, Palestinian SAFA News reported.
It further urged the Riyadh regime to avoid making statements that are harmful to the Palestinian cause and the Palestinians’ legitimate rights.
Last month, Qatar’s state-run news agency released comments attributed to the emir on sensitive regional issues.
Sheikh Tamim was quoted as describing Iran as an “Islamic power” and “big power in the stabilization of the region.”
He was also cited as questioning Trump’s hostility towards Tehran, speaking of “tensions” between Doha and Washington, praising Hamas as “the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” and threatening to withdraw ambassadors from a range of Middle Eastern countries.
However, the Qatari government communications office later claimed that hackers had broken into the QNA website and published the fake news, but the hacking claim apparently failed to convince the Saudi regime and Persian Gulf allies.
Doha has long has faced criticism from its Arab neighbors over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Back in 2014, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in protest at what they called Doha’s “interference in their internal affairs.”