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Qatar and Saudi Leaders Explore Possible Talks

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gestures during a military parade by Saudi security forces in preparation for the annual Haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Aug. 23, 2017. Saudi Arabia called off talks with Qatar shortly after reports it had agreed to talks.

Saudi Arabia says it has suspended any dialogue with Qatar, accusing it of “distorting facts,” just after reports that Saudi and Qatari leaders had spoken by phone and agreed to talks.

Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Press Agency said late Friday that a Qatari report about a phone call between Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “did not have any relevance to the truth.”

Qatari sources reported the two men agreed by telephone to appoint envoys for possible talks to work out the differences between Qatar and its neighbors.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attends a Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 9, 2014.

Five-nation talks

According to the Saudi news agency, Qatar initiated the phone call and asked for dialogue with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. All of those governments cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar in June, alleging Qatar supports extremists and has ties to Iran.

After Friday’s phone call and the disputed report, Saudi news said, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia declares that any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar shall be suspended until a clear statement explaining its position is made in public and that its public statements are in conformity with its obligations.”

Also Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump made telephone calls to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates a day after saying he is willing to help ease the dispute between Qatar and its neighbors.

At a joint news conference with Kuwait’s Emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, the president said he would be willing to mediate talks.

“I would be willing to do so, and I think you’d have a deal worked out very quickly,” Trump said. “I think it’s something that’s going to get solved fairly easily.”

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Saba during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept. 7, 2017, in Washington.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut all ties with Qatar after accusing it of having ties with Shiite Iran and fundamentalist Islamist groups.

Qatar’s leaders have denied the charges.

The Arab nations have made several demands of Qatar, and Kuwait has been trying to mediate the dispute.

Sheikh Sabah said he had received a letter from Qatar that expressed willingness to discuss a list of 13 demands from its neighbors. He expressed hope that “a great part of them will be resolved.”

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are both important allies of the U.S. in the restive region. Qatar is home to the region’s biggest U.S. military base. | via VOANews

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