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Trump Says Arab Leaders Complained About Qatar


U.S. President Donald Trump (file photo)

U.S. President Donald Trump says that Middle Eastern leaders complained about Qatar when he demanded an end to support for radical ideology that encourages terrorism.

In series of tweets on June 6, Trump appeared to suggest that the decision by several countries in the region to cut all ties with Qatar was understandable.

"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.

"They said they would take a hard line on funding ... extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!" Trump said, arguing that his visit to Saudi Arabia during his first presidential trip abroad last month was "already paying off." Qatar denies supporting extremism.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia along with Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), the Maldives, and Libya's eastern-based government have all cut diplomatic and other ties with Qatar over its alleged support for extremists.

On June 6, Jordan decided to reduce diplomatic representation with Qatar and revoke the license of the Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera television channel, a government spokesman said in Jordan's capital, Amman.

U.S. Military Presence

However, the Pentagon said on June 6 that "We have no plans to change our posture in Qatar," and declined to comment on Trump's tweets. There are roughly 10,000 American troops and a major U.S. base in Qatar.

A spokesman said the Pentagon was grateful to Qatar for its support of the U.S. military presence and "enduring commitment to regional security."

"There has been no impact on our operations either in Qatar or with regards to airspace permission around it and we don't anticipate there will be," Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said.

Asked whether Qatar is a supporter of terrorism, the Pentagon spokesman told a press briefing in Washington, "I'm not the right person to ask that."

Meanwhile, the leaders of France and Russia held telephone conversations with Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Qatar's emir it was important to preserve stability in the Gulf, and said France remained available to talk to all parties involved, an official at the French president's office said.

Macron also held a separate phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the crisis in the Gulf, the official added.

Separately, Erdogan said that isolating Qatar, including the use of sanctions, would not resolve any problems."We are and we will do everything we can to resolve this crisis," Erdogan said in a speech following a fast-breaking iftar dinner for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

President Vladimir Putin told Thani that Russia's stance remains that crisis situations should be solved by political and diplomatic means "in dialogue," the Kremlin said June 6. Putin also held a phone conversation with the leader of Egypt, one of the countries that cut ties with Qatar. Putin and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi discussed the situation in the Middle East, the Kremlin said.

Kuwait -- one of the Gulf countries not involved in the dispute -- has also offered to help mediate talks, with Kuwait's emir traveling to Saudi Arabia.

Tillerson Calls For Calm

A day earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had called for calm, while avoiding taking sides. During a news conference in Australia, Tillerson said the United States was encouraging the countries "to sit down together" and address irritants that he said had "bubbled up" for some time.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Al-Jazeera that his country was seeking "a dialogue of openness and honesty," and said Qatar would not retaliate.

It was unclear how the mounting crisis would impede regional unity on fighting the Islamic State group and other extremist threats in the region, although U.S. military and diplomatic officials have thus far insisted they anticipate no change to cooperation on those efforts.

However, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said Qatar needed to take several steps, including ending its support of Palestinian Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, to restore ties with other key Arab states.

"We've decided to take steps to make clear that enough is enough," Adel Al-Jubeir told journalists in Paris. "Nobody wants to hurt Qatar. Qatar has to choose whether it must move in one direction or another direction".

Qatar's neighbors have long accused the country of tolerating or even encouraging support for extremist groups, including Al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, formerly called the Al-Nusra Front.

Those nations have also objected to Qatari support for Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, whose political ideology challenges the system of hereditary rule in Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and other nations.

A large amount of Qatar's food is transported across the border from Saudi Arabia, which is being closed. Qatar's main exports are oil and gas, which are mostly seaborne, so should not be immediately hit.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and BBC
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