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Friday 14 December 2018

Qatar's emir warns against military action in Gulf dispute

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has warned against any military confrontation over the diplomatic dispute (Qatar News Agency/AP)
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has warned against any military confrontation over the diplomatic dispute (Qatar News Agency/AP)

Qatar's emir has warned against any military confrontation over the diplomatic dispute between his country and four other Arab nations, saying it would only plunge the region into chaos.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said US president Donald Trump had offered to host a meeting between Qatar and its opponents - Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - to end the crisis between the American allies.

But speaking to CBS's 60 Minutes TV news programme, Sheikh Tamim said so far there had been no response from the boycotting nations.

"It was supposed to be very soon, this meeting," he said.

The threat of a military confrontation between the countries loomed in the initial days following the start of boycott on June 5.

Arabic language media in the boycotting nations suggested the need for a Peninsula Shield operation, which is the military arm of the Gulf Co-operation Council, though government officials downplayed the idea at the time.

Saudi and UAE forces attached to Peninsula Shield previously deployed to Bahrain to put down its 2011 Arab Spring protests.

While meeting Mr Trump in Washington in September, Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah said mediation by the president helped avoid any violence.

"Thank God, now, what is important is that we have stopped any military action," said Sheikh Sabah, who himself has been trying to mediate the dispute.

In the 60 Minutes interview, Sheikh Tamim acknowledged the alleged military threat.

"I'm fearful that if anything happens, if any military act happens, this region will be in chaos," he said.

His comments drew immediate criticism early on Sunday from Emirati minister of state for international affairs Anwar Gargash.

"To go to the Western media and attack Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at this point is desperate," Mr Gargash said on Twitter, adding Qatar "should accept its isolation without snivelling and do what it must".

The four countries boycotting Qatar claim the natural gas-rich nation funds extremists and are opposed to its support for Islamist opposition groups and ties to Iran, with which it shares a massive gas field.

Doha has long denied funding extremists.

AP

Press Association

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