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Qatar emir open to dialogue to end Gulf crisis

BOGOR: Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Al-Thani meets Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the presidential palace yesterday. – AFP

BOGOR, Indonesia: Qatar is “open to dialogue” in resolving a dispute that has seen the Gulf state isolated from its Arab neighbors, its emir said during a visit to Indonesia yesterday. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of financing terrorism and maintaining too close of ties to their arch-rival Iran. Doha denies the charges.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said he discussed the issue with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, which has the world’s largest population of Muslims and has close ties to the Arab world. “We conveyed…that Qatar is ready to conduct a dialogue to solve the problem as we already know that no one will win,” Thani told reporters after meeting with Widodo at the state palace in Bogor, outside the capital of Jakarta. “We are all brothers and suffering because of this crisis,” he added. President Widodo did not publicly address the dispute.

The leader of the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas also visited Malaysia – another Muslim-majority nation – and Singapore this week. Saudi and other Arab nations have made a list of 13 wide-ranging demands of Qatar, including closing down the Al Jazeera television network and curbing ties with Iran. Kuwait and top United States officials have attempted to mediate between the parties, but there is little sign that the crisis will be resolved soon.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s foreign minister yesterday said the fight against the Islamic State group has suffered in the Gulf crisis. The closure of Qatar’s only land border and the airspace ban on Qatari planes “undermines the global efforts in countering” IS in Iraq and Syria, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said in an interview with CNBC.

Qatar is home to the Al-Udeid air base, home to some 11,000 US soldiers and crucial in the fight against IS. As part of the coalition’s operations, numerous air strikes against IS targets in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have been conducted from Al-Udeid, the largest US base in the region. The foreign minister said Al-Udeid had also suffered under the air blockade as well as the Saudi decision to seal off Qatar’s only land border – a move that prompted Iran, along with Turkey, to step in and provide much-needed food imports.

The land border had been used for 90 percent of Qatar’s food and medical supplies, with “part of it is going to the base”, said Sheikh Mohammed. Qatar’s military planes which had been providing logistical support for the coalition are now “only allowed to use one path, which is toward the north – toward Iran,” he added. Qatari troops in June were also ordered out of Bahrain, where they had been serving with the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). NAVCENT is part of the US Central Command whose area of operation includes the Middle East and Asia. – Agencies



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