EU foreign policy chief, Turkish president in Gulf to defuse Qatar crisis

July 24, 2017



Beijing:  The European Union (EU) foreign policy chief and Turkish president have been travelling around the Gulf countries as part of the most recent worldwide efforts to heal the diplomatic rift between Qatar and the Saudi-led quartet. 

Federica Mogherini pledged EU support and assistance for efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis that erupted last month, when meeting with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Khaled Al Sabah on Sunday. 

The current situation should be resolved through dialogue and without delay, she said in a statement released by the European External Action Service, urging all parties to enter into negotiations to hammer out clear principles and a roadmap for a swift resolution. 

The Saudi-led quartet, which also includes the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5 and imposed a blockade on the tiny rich Gulf nation. 

Accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and interfering in their internal affairs, the countries initially put forward a list of 13 demands to Qatar, demanding it close the Al-Jazeera channels, downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran and stopping financing extremist groups. 

Qatar has strongly denied the charges. Also on Sunday and in another Gulf state, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as part of his country's renewed mediation efforts, met with Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz. 
Erdogan's Gulf tour will also take him to Qatar and Kuwait. Turkey has publicly sided with Qatar, with which it has expansive economic and security ties, while criticizing the Saudi-led blockade as inhumane. 

Earlier Sunday, Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul that Turkey is seeking an immediate resolution to the ongoing diplomatic row in the Gulf. "Nobody has any interest in prolonging this crisis anymore," he said. 

Among the 13 demands put forward by the Saudi-led bloc is the closure of a Turkish military base in Qatar. Turkey has deployed a number of troops in the base recently in a move aimed at bolstering Qatar's defiance in the face of sanctions and threats from its neighbors. 

Ankara has refused to withdraw troops from Qatar, a move that has frustrated the four Arab countries. Highlighting the fallouts of the dispute in and beyond the region, Erdogan and Mogherini were among a string of high-level visitors form outside the Gulf, including top diplomats from Britain, France, Germany and the United States. 

Signs of easing of the crisis have emerged recently after the Gulf visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during which the United States and Qatar signed a deal on combating terrorism funding. 

This addressed one of the core demands by the Saudi-led bloc, which has slammed Doha for financing and supporting a number of extremist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Hamas movement in Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. 

Qatar has revised its law on fighting terrorism over the week, a move that was welcomed by the UAE as a "positive step." Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said Friday that Qatar is prepared to engage in dialogue, provided that any resolution to the crisis must respect its sovereignty and any terms cannot be dictated from the outside. 

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