US President Donald Trump spoke separately with several leaders of nations in the Persian Gulf region and addressed ongoing disputes between Qatar and some of its Arab neighbors, as Gulf states that levied a de facto blockade on Doha extended a deadline on answering demands by two days.
The White House said Trump urged unity and reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology.
Trump spoke Sunday night with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, and Emir Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar and “reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing,” the White House said.
Arab nations extended a deadline early Monday for Qatar to respond to their list of demands in a diplomatic crisis roiling the Gulf, saying Kuwait’s emir requested the delay as part of his efforts to mediate the dispute.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut off ties with 2022 FIFA World Cup host Qatar on June 5, restricting access to their airspace and ports and sealing Qatar’s only land border, which it shares with Saudi Arabia.
They issued a 13-point list of demands to end the standoff June 22 and gave the natural gas-rich country 10 days to comply.
The joint statement early Monday by the Arab nations said they expected Qatar to respond to their demands on Monday. The new deadline would expire late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
“The response of the four states will then be sent following the study of the Qatari government’s response and assessment of its response to the whole demands,” the statement said.
The four nations cut ties to Qatar over allegations it supports extremists and over worries it maintains too-close ties to Shiite power Iran. Qatar long has denied sponsoring militants and maintains ties to Iran as it shares a massive offshore natural gas field with the country.
The 48-hour extension was in response to a request by the Kuwaiti emir who is acting as mediator in the Gulf crisis.
The crisis has raised concerns of growing instability in the region, home to some of the world’s largest energy producers and several key Western allies hosting US military facilities.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who on Monday starts a tour of several Arab states, called for a “serious dialogue” to end the crisis.
“We are worried that the distrust and the disunity could weaken all the parties concerned as well as the entire peninsula,” said Gabriel, who will visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
“Qatar is not an easy country to be swallowed by anyone. We are ready. We stand ready to defend our country. I hope that we don’t come to a stage where, you know, a military intervention is made,” Qatari Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah told Sky News.
It is unclear what further measures will be taken if Qatar fails to meet the demands, but the UAE ambassador to Russia Omar Ghobash warned last week that further sanctions could be imposed.
As well as expelling Doha from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab states could tell their economic partners they need to make a choice between doing business with them or with Qatar, he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
Qatar has long pursued a more independent foreign policy than many of its neighbors, who tend to follow the lead of regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia.
Doha has said it is ready for talks to end the crisis and Kuwait, which unlike most of its GCC neighbors has not cut ties, has taken the lead in mediation efforts.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also called for compromise and hosted senior Gulf officials, but his efforts have been undermined by remarks from Trump apparently supporting Riyadh’s position.
Qatar’s main QE stock index lost more than 3 percent when it reopened Sunday following a weeklong hiatus for the Eid al-Fitr holiday break — its first session since the demands were laid out. It eventually recovered some of its losses later in the trading session to close down 2.3 percent at 8,822.15.
Qatari supermarkets saw panic buying when the four countries initially cut ties. But the capital, Doha, was largely calm Sunday as residents waited to see how the crisis would play out.
Abdelaziz al-Yafaei, a Qatari out for an evening walk along the city’s bayside, said he was reassured that things would be fine, regardless of what happens over the course of the next days.
“We have a government, thank God, that is wise and knows how to provide for all of our needs, how to maintain security,” he said. “We have enough funds in the country, on the economic side. All of the affairs are headed for the better.”
Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, showed no signs of backing down in during a press briefing in Rome on Saturday, saying they were never meant to be accepted and that his country “is prepared to face whatever consequences.”
While in Rome, Al Thani met with Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, who gave his backing to ongoing mediation efforts led by Kuwait. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also tried to resolve the dispute, with the U.S. last week urging Saudi Arabia and its allies to stay “open to negotiation” with Qatar.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has separately spoken with the leaders of Qatar and Bahrain, urging direct dialogue among all the states involved, according to statements released by the Kremlin on Saturday.
Newspapers in the UAE rounded on Qatar on Sunday, with prominent daily The National saying in an editorial: “Qatar’s wrong-headed behavior is depressingly predictable.”
“A conclusion to the crisis… can only arrive when Doha mends its ways and seeks to answer the Gulf’s concerns. We doubt that day will come soon, even though Qatar must be aware that its actions will deliver profound consequences,” it wrote.