Trump Offers to Help Resolve Gulf Crisis, UAE Tightens Squeeze on Qatar

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates/DOHA, Qatar (Reuters) -
Qatar
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (AP Photo/Osama Faisal, File)

President Donald Trump offered on Wednesday to help resolve a worsening diplomatic crisis between Qatar and other Arab powers as the United Arab Emirates invoked the possibility of an economic embargo on Doha over its alleged support of terrorism.

In his second intervention in a row in as many days, Trump urged action against terrorism in a call with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, a White House statement said.

“The president offered to help the parties resolve their differences, including through a meeting at the White House if necessary,” it said.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday over long-standing allegations that Doha is courting Iran, which they deem the region’s biggest external threat, and supporting Islamist groups, seen as the biggest internal danger.

The four countries also cut transport links to tiny gas-rich Qatar, disrupting food and other supplies and deepening uncertainty about the future of trade and investment ties.

In a sign of economic damage from the dispute, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Qatar’s debt on Wednesday as the country’s riyal currency fell to an 11-year low amid signs that portfolio investment funds were flowing out because of the rift.

S&P cut its long-term rating of Qatar by one notch to AA- from AA and put the rating on CreditWatch with negative implications, meaning there was a significant chance of a further downgrade.

Meanwhile Kuwait’s ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, continued a regional effort to mediate the crisis, shuttling from the UAE en route to Qatar on Wednesday evening, a Kuwaiti diplomat told Reuters.

But efforts to defuse the worst crisis among Gulf Arabs for two decades showed no immediate progress.

Trump’s defense secretary, James Mattis, spoke to his Qatari counterpart to express commitment to the Gulf region’s security. Qatar hosts 8,000 U.S. military personnel at al Udeid, the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East and a launchpad for U.S.-led strikes on Islamic State jihadists.