Trump’s bid to end Saudi-Qatar stalemate ends in recriminations

The New York Times reports: An attempt by President Trump to break the stalemate that has divided the wealthiest countries in the Middle East ended in failure on Saturday, when leaders from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, after speaking by phone for the first time in months, exchanged dueling, contradictory statements.

Mr. Trump arranged the call, which took place late on Friday, and promised a breakthrough in the bitter dispute that has plunged the Persian Gulf into turmoil and has threatened American security interests.

Since June, Saudi Arabia has led the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain in imposing a punishing trade and transport boycott against tiny, gas-rich Qatar, accusing it of financing terrorism and having overly cozy relations with Iran. Qatar has rejected the charges, countering that its rivals are seeking to curb its sovereignty and tame its influential television channel Al Jazeera.

Mr. Trump stepped into the frame this past week, offering his services as a mediator and predicting a quick victory.

“I think you’d have a deal worked out very quickly,” he said at the White House on Thursday, standing alongside the emir of Kuwait, who has led Arab efforts to end the standoff.

But Friday’s phone call between the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, seemed to underscore only how hard it might be to settle the angry, often petty, dispute. [Continue reading…]

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