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Kuwait FM met with Qatar's emir amidst Gulf media war

Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah at a press conference after signing an agreement on border gates, security and aviation cooperation in Baghdad, Iraq, on 28 December 2016 [Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency]
The then-Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah at a press conference on 28 December 2016 [Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

Kuwait's foreign minister met Qatar's ruler yesterday for talks that appeared aimed at trying to ease renewed tensions between Qatar and fellow Gulf Arabs over its alleged policy towards Iran and regional Islamist groups.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates signalled frustration at Qatar after its state media seemed to publish purported remarks by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani criticising Gulf rhetoric against Iran and suggesting tensions between the emir and US President Donald Trump.

Qatar said the remarks, published late on Tuesday, were fake and that the news agency that ran them had been hacked in an apparent attempt to misrepresent Sheikh Tamim's views.

But Arabian Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia allowed their state-backed media to run them throughout the day on Wednesday, infuriating Doha and triggering a war of words in regional media.

Kuwait, which acted as a mediator during a previous Gulf dispute with Qatar, sent its top diplomat Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al Sabah to visit Sheikh Tamim on Friday. He conveyed greetings from the Kuwaiti emir to the ruler and Qatari people, state news agency KUNA said, without elaborating.

A Gulf official told Reuters on Thursday that Kuwait's emir had offered during a conversation with Sheikh Tamim to mediate and host talks to ensure the feud does not escalate. Kuwaiti officials were not immediately available for comment.

Read: Surprise as Gulf sites continue reporting fake Qatar news

On Thursday, Qatar's foreign minister told reporters Doha wanted to maintain "strong and brotherly relations with GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries."

Rifts between Qatar and other regional states have implications far beyond their borders. Gulf countries have used their oil and gas wealth to influence events in the wider Arab world and relations can affect the political balance in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

"In a turbulent region, there is no alternative to Gulf unity, and Saudi Arabia is the linchpin," UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash wrote on Twitter yesterday, calling on all Gulf states to rally around the dominant GCC power.

Since the dispute erupted, authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE have blocked the main website of Qatar-based Al Jazeera television, which Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see as critical of their governments.

On Friday some Al Jazeera television channels were also still blocked. The station says it is an independent news service giving a voice to all sides in the region and carries the slogan "The opinion, and the other opinion".

The latest tensions came days after Gulf Arab leaders met Trump at a Riyadh summit of Muslim nations meant to showcase solidarity against armed militant groups and Shia regional foe Iran.

Relations between Qatar and other Gulf Arab states suffered an eight-month breach in 2014 over Qatar's alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood, whose political ideology challenges the principle of dynastic rule. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, some of the most repressive monarchies in the region, subsequently withdrew their ambassadors from Doha in protest.

Read: UAE media welcomes block of Qatar's Al Jazeera

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