Qatari, Saudi Leaders' Spat Continues Gulf Crisis

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September 10, 2017

The ongoing crisis between Qatar and a number of other nations led by Saudi Arabia shows no signs of easing, even after a second attempt at mediation by American President Donald Trump.

Trump did get the leaders of the two countries, Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, to speak to each other for the first time in several weeks, but they did not resolve their differences. At the White House with Trump was the emir of Kuwait, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, who has been working for weeks to mediate the crisis. 

Qatar stands accused–by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Edmirates–of financing international terrorism, in particular by currying favor with Iran. Qatar has refuted the charges, saying that it has assisted in battles against ISIS, and has counterclaimed that the other countries are trying to curb the influence of Qatar's Al-Jazeera news network.

The crisis began in June with a series of moves to isolate Qatar by land, air, and sea. The country has one land neighbor, Saudi Arabia, which traditionally has supplied much of its neighbor's food needs. Qatar has accelerated the opening of a new port, named the Hamad Port after the emir, as a way of pursuing its goal of economic diversification. The port accommodates larger container ships, enabling Qatar to bypass UAE docks entirely. Doha continues to be one of the busiest cities, even though flights to and from there still avoid cities in the countries opposing Qatar in the crisis.

In the first few days of the crisis, Trump and other world leaders called for a swift resolution, but none has been forthcoming. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to the Persian Gulf in July for what turned out to be fruitless negotiations. Deepening the rift on the side of the Saudi coalition was Qatar's August announcemtn of the restoration of full relations with Iran, a country with which Saudi Arabia in particular has a vehement relationship.

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