Turkey Takes Qatar's Side In Regional Rift

Qatar's top diplomat struck a defiant tone Thursday, saying no one gave Arab nations the right to "blockade" his energy-rich country, and that the campaign by Saudi Arabia and its allies to isolate Qatar is based on "false and fabricated news". "This is not about regime change - this is about change of policy, change of approach", Gargash said.

The stunning assault capped several days of spiraling tensions that kicked off when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led a group of Arab allies to move against Qatar - a USA partner and host of the main American air base in the region - which had sought accommodation with Iran.

Doha is a major global travel hub, but flag carrier Qatar Airways now flies increasingly over Iran and Turkey after being blocked elsewhere in the Middle East.

In a phone call with Al Thani, Trump said he wanted to help Qatar and its Arab neighbors resolve the row that has upended any sense of Gulf unity, suggesting a possible White House summit among leaders.

Meanwhile, Qatari armed forces that had been stationed in Saudi Arabia as part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen returned home on Wednesday, state television reported on its Twitter account.

In a dramatic move this week, eight countries under the leadership of Saudi Arabia cut their diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar.

"My mother who is originally from the UAE can not visit her sick mother, needless to say we will not be able to see my uncles", said Mohammed, a Qatar University professor, who gave his first name only. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was also ready to support diplomatic efforts "if desired by all parties", his spokesman said.

Trump spoke Tuesday with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud to discuss the situation.

Qatari investigators have said that a cyber attack which caused the publication of fake news last month that helped trigger a crisis with Gulf neighbours was prepared in April. Both Britain and the United States were helping with their inquiry, they said. Any role Tillerson might play would be complicated by conflicting messages from the administration, including Trump's tweets on Tuesday in which he appeared to back Saudi Arabia over Qatar.

"Qatar hosts one of the largest US military bases in the region", CNN reported.

On Wednesday, the UAE's justice ministry warned social media users on Wednesday that any expressions of "sympathy" for Qatar could result in between three to 15 years in prison, as well as hefty fines.

So far, Davidson said: "Qatar is sticking to its guns".

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies may have felt emboldened to move against Qatar by Trump's visit last month to Riyadh, which saw the president clearly align USA interests with the kingdom and lash out at Iran. DP World UAE - the operator of Jebel Ali, the largest container facility in the region - has gone further by banning "all ships loading or discharging cargo destined for or coming from Qatar", even if these ships are not traveling to Qatar themselves. Qatar's USA ambassador, Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, told The Associated Press his country is counting on Washington to persuade Saudi Arabia and others to back down. Saudi Arabia and Egypt regard the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

Riyadh has itself faced accusations of tolerating or even supporting extremists, in particular after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

  • Zachary Reyes