Saudi Arabia suspends dialogue, saying Qatar ‘distorting facts’

Courtesy The Guardian-

Saudi Arabia on Saturday suspended any dialogue with Qatar, accusing it of “distorting facts”, just after a report of a phone call between the leaders of both countries suggested a breakthrough in the Gulf dispute.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke by with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Friday when they discussed the dispute, state media from both countries reported.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar on 5 June, suspending air and shipping routes with the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, which is home to the region’s biggest US military base.

The nations say Doha supports regional foe Iran and Islamists, charges Qatar’s leaders deny. Kuwait has been trying to mediate the dispute.

“During the call, the Emir of Qatar expressed his desire to sit at the dialogue table and discuss the demands of the four countries to ensure the interests of all,” Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

The phone call was the first publicly reported contact between the two leaders since the start of the crisis. Qatar’s state news agency QNA said the call was based on coordination of US President Donald Trump who had earlier spoken with Sheikh Tamim.

But Saudi Arabia later issued a second statement citing an unnamed official at the ministry of the foreign affairs denying the QNA report.

“What was published on the Qatar News Agency is a continuation of the distortion of the Qatari authority of the facts,” SPA reported citing the Saudi official.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announces the suspension of any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar until a clear statement is issued clarifying its position in public.”

Meanwhile, the US State Department has approved arms sales packages worth more than $3.8 billion to Bahrain including F-16 jets, upgrades, missiles and patrol boats, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The approvals coincide with the State Department’s notification to Congress, which had held up a similar arms deal last year over human rights concerns.

The proposed sales include 19 F-16V jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp which could have a value of up to $2.7 billion, the Pentagon said.

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