Trump says Arab leaders warned him Qatar financed radicalism

Qatar and the other Arab states fell out over Doha's alleged support for Islamist militants and Shi'ite Iran.

By REUTERS
June 6, 2017 16:36
2 minute read.
trump saudi arabia trip

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) presents US President Donald Trump with the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal at the Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)

 
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US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday leaders he met on a Middle East trip had warned him that Qatar was funding "radical ideology" after he had demanded they take action to stop financing militant groups.

The comments on Twitter -- Trump's first about the rift between Qatar and major Arab nations over alleged support of Iran and Islamist groups -- came as the leader of Kuwait was to meet in Saudi Arabia to try to mediate the dispute.

Qatar vehemently denies the accusations against it, calling them baseless. Ordinary Qataris, however, were to be found crowding into supermarkets to stock up on goods against the crisis.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and closed their airspace to commercial flights on Monday, in the worst split between powerful Arab states in decades.

"During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!" Trump tweeted.

The comments lent credence to a view held by some analysts that Trump in his Middle East trip emboldened the Arab nations to take action even though Qatar is a U.S. ally and hosts a U.S. military base.

Gulf Arab officials said Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah will meet with Saudi Arabia's King Salman later in the day, hoping to heal the damaging rift which has affected global oil prices, hit travel plans and sown confusion among bankers and businesses in the region.

The split among the Sunni states erupted last month after Trump attended a summit of Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia where he denounced Shi'ite Iran's "destablising interventions" in Arab lands, where Tehran is locked in a tussle with Riyadh for influence.

In a sign of the potential consequences for the Qatari economy, a number of banks in the region began stepping back from business dealings with Qatar. Saudi Arabia's central bank advised banks in the kingdom not to trade with Qatari banks in Qatari riyals, sources said.

Oil prices also fell on concern that the rift would undermine efforts by OPEC to tighten production.

Qatar and the other Arab states fell out over Doha's alleged support for Islamist militants and Shi'ite Iran.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV that Qatar will not retaliate, hoping Kuwait will help resolve the dispute. It wants to give Kuwait's ruler the ability to "proceed and communicate with the parties to the crisis and to try to contain the issue".

Qatar's leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, spoke by telephone overnight with his counterpart in Kuwait and, in order to allow Kuwait to mediate, decided to put off a planned speech to the nation, the foreign minister said.

Qatar has for years parlayed its enormous gas wealth and media influence into a broad influence in the region. But Gulf Arab neighbours and Egypt have long been irked by its maverick stances and support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which they regard as a political enemy.

Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government and the Maldives - close allies of Qatar's adversaries in the spat - also cut ties.

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