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Middle East

Gulf meeting ends without clear end to Qatar spat

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal arrive for a meeting in Doha August 21, 2014, in this photo provided by the Palestinian President Office. (REUTERS/Thaer Ghanaim/ Palestinian President Office)

RIYADH: A meeting of Gulf foreign ministers ended Saturday without a clear way out of a monthslong diplomatic spat with Qatar, although some envoys signaled that progress had been made.

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March in an unprecedented public protest largely believed to be spurred by the tiny nation's support for Islamist groups in Egypt, Libya, the Gaza Strip and elsewhere. They accused Qatar of interfering in their domestic affairs and failing to uphold a security pact drawn up last year.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have little tolerance for Muslim Brotherhood-linked activity and perceive the Islamist group as a threat to their political systems.

Despite weeks of secretive talks, the statement by the ministers on Saturday made no mention of a resolution with Qatar.

Instead, the group's lengthy statement addressed a wide range of regional issues, starting with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council's condemnation of terrorism and support for international efforts to combat the financing of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The GCC statement also said ministers discussed relations with Iran, the Israel-Hamas cease-fire in Gaza, Shiite protests in Yemen and the fighting in Libya - issues where there are sharp policy differences among the Gulf countries.

Oman's foreign minister told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting that the Gulf crisis had been resolved. Kuwait's Foreign Minister said ambassadors could return at any moment because all sides want an end to the row. Oman and Kuwait have been acting as mediators in the row.

Earlier this week, top Saudi princes met with Qatar's emir in the capital Doha. The meeting lasted just an hour and a half, according to a senior Saudi official who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the talks.

The delegation led by Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, intelligence chief Khalid Bin Bandar and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef then headed to Bahrain to meet the king there, and to the UAE where they met the country's crown prince in Abu Dhabi.

The pan-Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat said the trip was a "last-minute diplomacy" blitz by Saudi Arabia concerning the rift with Qatar. Few details have emerged about what was said in those meetings.

 

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