Trump urges Gulf unity in call with Saudi king

The split among the Sunni Muslim states erupted last month after the summit of Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, where Trump denounced Shi'ite Muslim Iran's "destabilising interventions" in Arab lands, where Tehran is locked in a tussle with Riyadh for influence.

"They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism and all reference was pointing to Qatar", he said in a followup tweet.

His comments come amid one of the biggest political crises to hit the Middle East in years.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and several other states earlier this week moved to sever diplomatic ties with Doha over its alleged support for extremist groups.

Trump added: "Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!"
Analysts told Arab News that the U.S. president's apparent support for the move against Qatar adds pressure on Doha.
"Trump's tweets slam the door shut on the Qatar's final hope: that American mediation would give it a face-saving way out without having to make too many compromises", said Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. They accuse the energy-rich Gulf nation of supporting terror groups, charges denied by Qatar.

Qataris crowded into supermarkets to stock up on goods, fearing shortages.

The emir of Kuwait is mediating in the dispute and the president of Turkey has also offered to help, saying isolation and sanctions will not resolve the crisis.

Saudi Arabia's central bank advised banks in the kingdom not to trade with Qatari banks in Qatari riyals, banking sources said.

Qatar, however, maintained it was a victim of hacking. In an interview with Qatar's Al-Jazeera, Qatar's Foreign Minister said that Kuwait's local chief or Emir would travel to Saudi Arabia later on Wednesday for talks with Kuwait. "We are calling on all Filipinos to stay calm", he said.

The airline can operate flights linking Indonesia to destinations apart from the countries that have "a diplomatic problem with Qatar", it added in an emailed statement.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday.

A total of 27 flights from Dubai to Doha had been scheduled for yesterday and the Dubai Airports website showed all flights to Doha had been cancelled.

The Pentagon says the ongoing diplomatic crisis with Qatar has not and will not affect the major US air base there that supports military operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

A Pentagon spokesman said the crisis has had "no impact on our operations in Qatar or with regards to airspace permission around it".

Tensions on the Arabian Peninsula may have sharpened after Qatar reportedly made a tremendous ransom payment to Iran-backed militias in Iraq and al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria, after militants abducted a group of Qatari royal family members during a hunting expedition.

Qatar is also a major regional diplomatic player and global investor and is set to host the World Cup, football's biggest tournament, in 2022.

But Qatar has also always been accused by its Gulf neighbours and Egypt of supporting extremist groups.

"The measures are unjustified and are based on false and baseless claims", Qatar said in response to Monday's announcement.

The White House says President Donald Trump told Saudi Arabia's King Salman Tuesday that a united Gulf Cooperation Council is "critical to defeating terrorism and promoting regional stability".

U.S. officials immediately downplayed the friction between Qatar and its neighbours and counseled restraint.

Bans on Doha's fleet using regional ports and anchorages threatened to halt some of its exports and disrupt those of liquefied natural gas.

The ransom, which Iraqi officials said was in the "hundreds of millions of dollars", was believed to have been paid to militias with close ties to Teheran.

  • Leroy Wright