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U.S., Kuwait Seek To Bridge Split Between Qatar, Other Arab States


Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani

The United States and Kuwait are seeking to bridge a diplomatic split that opened up between Qatar and several Arab states over allegations that Doha supports extremism.

Qatar's foreign minister said early on June 6 that Kuwait is trying to mediate the dispute, which includes charges that Doha supports Iran and Shi'ite rebel groups in the region backed by Tehran.

In a speech broadcast on Al-Jazeera television, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani said Doha will refrain from escalating the dispute, which prompted the cutoff of diplomatic relations, trade, and air traffic between the two sides on June 5.

He called for "a dialogue of openness and honesty" to resolve the crisis and pledged that Qatar will not allow the standoff to harm relations with the United States, which maintains a major air base in the small Gulf state.

"Our relationship with the United States is strategic," said Abdul Rahman. "There are things we do not agree on, but our areas of cooperation outnumber those of contention."

U.S. officials said they are seeking to calm tensions between the two sides, while Kuwait has sought to act as a emissary between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which led the move among Arab states to cut off ties with Doha.

The dispute comes two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia, called for a united Muslim front against extremism, and singled out Iran and its allies as sources of tensions in the region.

Kuwait and Oman were among a handful of states that did not join the move to isolate Qatar and Iran, Saudi Arabia's archrival. Joining the Saudis were Bahrain, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and the Maldives.

The Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-backed rebels in Yemen also took part, saying it had expelled Qatar from the group for providing "support to [terrorist] organizations" there.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on June 5 called for dialogue to resolve the conflict.

"Neighbors are permanent; geography can't be changed. Coercion is never the solution," Zarif said on Twitter.

Another Iranian official said his country will export food to Qatar by sea, as Saudi Arabia on June 5 cut off the peninsula state's sole land border across which food is trucked in, causing panicked Qataris to rush to supermarkets to stockpile groceries.

The semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Reza Nourani, chairman of the union of exporters of agricultural products, as saying that food shipments sent from Iran can reach Qatar in 12 hours.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the situation, after which Ankara said it is "actively involved" in trying to tamp down the crisis.

"The Middle East is not at a point where it can endure a new crisis," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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