Saudi Arabia says plans to hold talks with Qatar have been suspended, shortly after the emergence of reports that a phone call between Qatar’s emir and the Saudi crown prince hinted at a potential breakthrough in a major diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.
The call on Friday between Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the first official contact between Doha and Riyadh since the start of the crisis more than three months ago.
In the phone call, which was reported by state media from both countries, the two leaders expressed a willingness to discuss an end to the rift.
However, there seems to be a dispute over protocol – with some reports pointing out apparent failure to mention that it was Doha that had initiated the call.
In its report about the two leaders’ call, QNA said that the phone conversation had been coordinated by US President Donald Trump.
In the phone discussion, Sheikh Tamim and Mohammed bin Salman “stressed the need to resolve this crisis” through dialogue “to ensure the unity and stability” of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), said QNA.
The Qatari emir welcomed a proposal by the Saudi crown prince to assign two envoys to resolve the dispute “in a way that does not affect the sovereignty of states”.
On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and imposed a blockade against it, accusing Doha of funding “terrorism”. Qatar has vehemently rejected the allegations as “baseless”.
On June 22, the group issued a 13-point list of demands, including the shutdown of Al Jazeera, limiting ties with Iran, and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country as a prerequisite to lifting the blockade. Doha rejected all the demands, denouncing them as attempts to infringe Qatar’s sovereignty.
The latest row came shortly after the White House issued a statement saying that Trump had spoken separately earlier on Friday with the Qatari and Saudi leaders, as well as UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
In his phone calls, Trump told the Gulf leaders that unity among Washington’s Arab allies was essential to promoting regional stability and countering the threat of Iran, the statement added.