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Trump claims credit for rift between Qatar and its neighbours

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TrumpCairo  – US President Donald Trump on Tuesday claimed that he was behind a move by Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Egypt to cut all ties with Qatar over its alleged support for militant groups.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” he wrote on Twitter.

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar,” he added.

“Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

The White House later said Trump had also spoken to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud by phone about “eliminating the promotion of extremism by any nation in the region,” according to a White House statement.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Yemen announced they were cutting diplomatic ties and closing borders with Qatar, accusing the Gulf country of supporting terrorism in Syria and Yemen.

The move came less than two weeks after Trump attended a gathering in Saudi Arabia with around 50 Muslim leaders that focused on building a partnership against terrorism.

Washington has long been critical of Qatar’s alleged role in funding violent extremist groups, but the tiny gas-and-oil-rich Gulf nation also hosts a key US military hub.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert played down Trump’s comments while insisting that Doha needed to do more to fight terrorism.

“We’re grateful to the Qataris for their long-standing support of our presence there in that nation,” she told reporters. “They have helped to provide us with an enduring commitment to regional security.”

But, she added, “More work needs to be done.”

Meanwhile, Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmed held talks with King Salman in Jeddah in a bid to defuse the crisis, regarded as the one of the biggest challenges to have hit the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the UAE – since it was created in 1981.

Kuwait is also a GCC member but has not joined in the action against Qatar. The emir left Saudi Arabia after a “brotherly visit,” the Kuwaiti state News Agency (KUNA) said, without giving any details on the talks.

Qatar had indicated it was willing to have Kuwait mediate over the steps taken against it, which Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Thani described to Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera as “unprecedented” and one-sided.”

Al-Thani also spoke to Germany Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, with the German diplomat afterwards slamming the move to cut off Qatar.

“Apparently, Qatar is to be isolated more or less completely and hit existentially,” Gabriel told the newspaper Handelsblatt. “Such a Trumpization of treatment is particularly dangerous in a region already plagued by crisis.”

The five Arab countries have ordered Qatari citizens to leave their territories within two weeks.

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday also revoked permits for Qatar’s national airline and ordered the closure of all offices of Qatar Airlines in the kingdom within 48 hours, the official Saudi news agency SPA reported.

Passengers who had earlier bought tickets for flights to and from Qatar have been asked to contact their travel agent for a refund, according to the agency.

Airlines in Gulf countries and Egypt have already suspended flights to and from Qatar, tightening the noose.

Qatari officials denied reports that residents in the emirate are panic-stricken over the potential effects of the boycott on the daily life.

“Qatar has strategic stocks of basic food commodities enough to cover the needs of at least 12 months,” the head of the Qatari Chamber of Commerce, Khalifa Al-Thani, said in Doha.

Late Tuesday, Jordan decided to reduce its level of diplomatic representation with Qatar and cancel Al Jazeera’s licenses in the country, the official Petra news agency reported.

Mauritania also said it had cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar.

The Bahraini News Agency (BNA) said Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa would travel to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to discuss “the latest regional and international developments.”

In 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain temporarily withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, accusing it of breaching a regional security pact.

Qatar has good relations with Iran, which Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain view as a regional rival.

-dpa