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US concerned Arab dispute with Qatar may intensify -State Dept

US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis (L) meets with Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud (R) during his official visit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 19 April 2017 [Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency]

The United States is increasingly concerned that a dispute between Qatar and other Arab states is at an impasse and could drag on for a long time or intensify, the US State Department said on Thursday.

Underscoring US concerns about a crisis involving key allies in the Middle East, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis discussed the importance of easing tensions in a phone call with Qatari Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid al-Attiyah.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain broke diplomatic relations with Qatar last month and launched a drive to boycott the gas-producing state, which they accuse of supporting terrorism and allying with regional foe Iran.

Read: Qatar working with US, Kuwaitis on response to Gulf demands

Qatar denies the charges and has accused the four countries of “clear aggression.”

“We remain very concerned about that ongoing situation between Qatar and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing.

We’ve become increasingly concerned that that dispute is at an impasse at this point. We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks. It could drag on for months. It could possibly even intensify,

she said.

Mattis discussed the state of relations among Gulf Arab states and “the importance of de-escalating tensions” in his call with Attiyah, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The two officials “affirmed the strategic security partnership” of their countries and Mattis emphasized the importance of Qatar’s contributions to the US-led coalition fighting Daesh, it added.

Read: The Saudi war of words on Qatar

Qatar hosts the largest US Air Force base in the region.

The rift opened days after US President Donald Trump met Arab leaders in Riyadh in May and called for unity against Iran and hardline Islamist militant groups.

Trump discussed the crisis in phone calls with leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, on Sunday, reiterating the importance of “stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology,” according to the White House.

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