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French FM to visit Gulf as Tillerson talks end with little progress

Jean-Yves Le Drian will visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE this week. [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 July, 2017

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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE this week in a bid to ease tensions in the region's ongoing diplomatic crisis.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE this week in a bid to ease tensions in an ongoing diplomatic crisis in the region.

Last month, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, announcing sanctions on the country over accusations Doha supported Islamist extremism and was too close to Iran. Doha denies the allegations.

"Concerned by current tensions that are affecting these countries with whom we have close and friendly ties, we call for a rapid de-escalation that would be in everyone's interest," the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

The French visit, due to take place from July 15-16, will be the last of the major Western states to go to the Gulf after Germany, Britain and the United States have all attempted to mediate the crisis.

Le Drian will highlight the negative political, diplomatic, economic and security impact of the blockade and will hear the views of all countries involved, the foreign ministry said.

France will also insist on the importance of the fight against terrorism and its financing, and will back Kuwait's efforts to mediate the crisis.

           

The French visit comes as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended talks on Wednesday with ministers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in an attempt to mend fences between the crucial US allies.

Tillerson met the foreign ministers in Jeddah to pursue an end to the worst dispute in decades among Gulf Arab states, but there was no immediate word of any breakthrough.

In a setback to his efforts, the four Arab states on Tuesday quickly dismissed a counter-terrorism deal signed between Qatar and the United States as "insufficient".

A defiant Qatar has rejected a list of 13 demands from the Saudi-led coalition that included shutting broadcaster Al Jazeera, downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran and closing a Turkish military base.

Tillerson is due back in Doha on Thursday.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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