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8 Sep, 2017 23:31

Saudi Arabia suspends ‘all dialogue’ with Doha after phone talks with Qatar emir & Trump

Riyadh is suspending all communication with Doha after Qatari media allegedly misreported the contents of the first phone talks on the crisis between the two Arab states, Saudi state media said. It comes after Donald Trump called on Gulf countries to unite against Iran.

READ MORE: Qatar banks under Arab boycott seek Asian & European funding

On Friday, the Emir of Qatar contacted Saudi Arabia’s defense minister Mohammed bin Salman – recently elevated to the rank of  crown prince – by phone to discuss the list of demands issued to Doha by the four Arab countries, led by the Saudis. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE insist Qatar comply with the ultimatum if it wants an end to the ongoing economic and travel blockade.

Initial reports said Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani expressed his willingness to enter into negotiations with the quartet.

However, Saudi state news agency SPA soon broke the news that Riyadh was suspending all dialogue and communication with Doha and accused the Qatar News Agency (QNA) of “distorting facts” while reporting on the phone conversation.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announces the suspension of any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar until a clear statement is issued clarifying its position in public," the SPA reported.

QNA said the Saudi crown prince allegedly proposed to “assign two envoys to resolve the dispute in a way that respects the sovereignty of states,” while both leaders “stressed the need to resolve this crisis… to ensure the unity and stability” of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Al Jazeera reported.

The agency added that the call was coordinated with US President Donald Trump.

It was not immediately clear which part of the reporting Riyadh disputed. In the run-up to the announcement, both bin Salman and al-Thani held separate phone talks with Trump Friday after the latter expressed a willingness to mediate in the Qatari crisis. Trump also spoke to the UAE’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

In its statement following the talks, the White House said Trump highlighted the importance of unity among the Arab states in the battle against terrorism and as a counterweight to Iran, in particularly stressing the necessity to curb terrorism funding and to stamp out extremist ideology.

The four Gulf countries severed diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5, following the lead of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain which accused Qatar of supporting terrorist groups and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. The bloc then imposed an economic and travel blockade on Qatar, demanding it accept a 13-point ultimatum for relations to be restored. Qatar, however, dismissed the demands, which included the withdrawal of Turkish forces from its territory, shutting down its Al Jazeera television network and cutting aid to extremist groups.

As the crisis unfolded, Trump joined the Saudi-led bloc in accusing Doha of sponsoring terrorism. Qatar hosts the largest US base in the region, the Al Udeid Air Base. Over 10,000 American service members are stationed there and Qatari soldiers regularly hold drills with US troops. The last such exercise was in June this year.