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No solution to Qatar crisis at Arab Summit: Saudi FM

Adel Jubeir made the comments on Thursday [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 April, 2018

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The upcoming meeting of Arab League states will not discuss the ongoing Saudi-led blockade on Qatar, Riyadh's foreign minister said on Thursday.

The Gulf crisis, which has seen Qatar isolated by Saudi Arabia and its allies, is not on the table at the upcoming meeting of Arab League states, Riyadh's foreign minister said on Thursday. 

"The solution of Qatar will be within the GCC," or the six-state Gulf Cooperation Council, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh ahead of the Arab Summit.  

The Saudi official was responding to an AFP question on whether the crisis was on the agenda at the meeting on Sunday, which is hosted by Saudi Arabia and joins 21 of the 22 Arab League member states - Syria has been suspended from the summit since 2011 over the government's role in the war.

Qatar has confirmed its attendance at the Saudi summit after recieving an official invitation last week.

The 10-month Gulf crisis pits Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain against Qatar. It is the worst crisis to ever hit the Gulf, home to both the world's largest exporters of oil and natural gas - Saudi Arabia and Qatar respectively. 

Riyadh and its allies broke off relations with Doha in June, accusing it of fostering close links with Tehran and supporting Islamist extremists - a charge Qatar strongly denies.

The blockade includes the closure of the small Gulf state's only land border with Saudi Arabia.

This week, Saudi media announced the kingdom planned to dig a canal the length of its border with Qatar, to turn its peninsula neighbour into an isolated island. 

The planned canal, dubbed "Salwa", is "funded entirely by Saudi and Emirati private sector investment under full Saudi authority," Sabq Online Newspaper reported on Monday - the Saudi government has not issued a denial. 

Kuwait, a member of the GCC, has led mediation efforts in the crisis - to no avail - with the support of the United States. 

Change of tune

US President Donald Trump had initially supported the Saudi-led economic blockade on Qatar, but aides - mindful of the pivotal role that the Al Udeid Air Base outside Doha plays in US Middle East operations - have since convinced him to take a more moderate approach.

On Tuesday, Trump met with the Emir of Qatar at the White House, barely one year after alleging Doha funded terrorism at a "high level" and less than two weeks after meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

But the US president changed his tune during the Tuesday meeting, describing the Qatari emir as "friend" and "great gentleman". 

On Wednesday, US officials told Reuters that Trump told Saudi King Salman that he wanted the boycotting bloc to restore relations with Doha and gave a deadline of three weeks for the crisis to be settled.

During a phone call between the leaders earlier this month, Trump struck a "forceful tone" and demanded swift action to end the conflict.

"[Trump] stressed that the feud the Saudis and Emirates are having with Qatar makes no sense," one official said.

The US leader vouched publicly for Qatar's efforts to stop the funding of terrorism, reversing past critique.

Qatar has long sought to stress its role as an agreeable US partner in a strategically vital region.

The country hosts some 10,000 US troops at al-Udeid Air Base, a key command centre for US forces in the Middle East, and has been building new facilities for US troops there at Qatari expense in a bid to make it more comfortable.

Qatar has rejected a series of demands made by the bloc, including closing media outlets such as Al Jazeera and the London-based The New Arab.

Doha has called for dialogue to end the crisis, which has been shunned by Saudi Arabia and its partners.

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