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Kuwait, Britain urge GCC dialogue – Italy voices confidence in Amir



British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson meets with visiting Kuwaiti Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Acting Information Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah.

LONDON, June 29, (Agencies): Britain and Kuwait on Thursday urged parties of the Gulf crisis to activate dialogue among member States of the Gulf Cooperation Council and act for safeguarding solidarity among the GCC countries.

The joint call came after a meeting between British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the visiting Kuwaiti Minister for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Information Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah. The UK Foreign Office affirmed in a statement London’s support for the Kuwaiti mediation to resolve the Gulf crisis, emphasizing its commitment to coordinate and cooperate with the State of Kuwait to de-escalate tension in the Arabian Gulf.

They also urged all parties to strengthen their efforts to fight terrorism and extremism, including work to counter terrorists’ financing and reduce support for extremist groups, building on progress already made. Sheikh Mohammed Al-Abdullah on Tuesday held talks with the US Secretary of State in Washington, discussing issues of common concern and the GCC affairs.

France, meanwhile, extolled efforts by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to resolve the Gulf crisis, urging all parties to reduce tension and hold dialogue.

This came during a meeting held between Kuwait’s Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Information Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Kuwait Embassy said in a statement today. The two sides also discussed some issues of common concern, it added.

The French minister stressed his country’s support for His Highness the Amir’s efforts for healing the Gulf rift and reducing tension in the region, it noted. He called for containing the crisis within the framework of the GCC member states. The visit by Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah is part of a tour that included the United States and Britain and aimed to discuss the latest developments towards the current crisis, it pointed out.

Qatari minister to Turkey
The defence minister of Qatar is to visit its ally Turkey on Friday, state media reported, as Ankara resists pressure to shutter a military base in the emirate’s unresolved row with Gulf neighbours. Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah will meet with Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik at the defence ministry in Ankara, the state-run news agency Anadolu said on Thursday.

Turkey has provided food and other aid via hundreds of planes and a cargo ship, although Ankara’s attempts to mediate between the sides have so far come to nothing. Crucially, Ankara is also setting up a military base on the emirate that is set to give Turkey a new foothold in the Gulf.

A bill was fast-tracked through the Turkish parliament this month as the crisis broke out giving Ankara a mandate to send up to several thousand troops to the base. An initial contingent of 23 soldiers and five armoured vehicles arrived in Qatar on June 22.

Last week Riyadh and its allies issued 13 demands to Qatar, including the shutdown of the Turkish military base, or face further sanctions. Erdogan hit back at the Saudi-led demands, calling the sweeping demands “against international law” and saying that asking for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Qatar was a “disrespect to Turkey.” Yet Ankara has also been careful not to directly criticise Riyadh and previously urged the kingdom to lead attempts to solve the crisis.

Group to hire Swiss firm
A Qatari human rights group is hiring a Swiss law firm to help seek compensation for citizens affected by sanctions imposed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, two sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Lalive, a law firm with offices in Geneva, Zurich and Doha, is finalising an agreement with Qatar’s government-appointed National Human Rights Commission (QNHRC) that will be announced on Saturday, the sources said. “The plan is to help Qataris pursue legal action against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which cut ties with Qatar this month,” said one of the sources, declining to be named under briefing rules. Representatives of the Qatari, Saudi, UAE and Bahraini governments could not immediately be reached for comment.

Qataris are the wealthiest citizens in the world per capita enjoying wealth produced by the world’s largest exports of liquefied natural gas. Many own assets worth millions of dollars in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, including hotels, real estate and farmland. Others have cancelled travel plans and scrapped import deals with UAE-based firms since the countries cut ties with Qatar on June 5 and imposed economic sanctions, accusing it of funding militants.

It was not immediately clear under what jurisdictional basis the legal claims would be made and whether governments involved would have to first agree to arbitration. Ali al-Marri, chairman of QNHRC, told reporters on Wednesday that his organisation would pursue compensation claims in courts in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain as well as in Europe. He did not elaborate. “Some cases will be filed in courts in those three countries and in some courts that have international jurisdictions, like in Europe, related to compensation,” he said.

Dispute at WTO
Qatar will raise its dispute with four other Arab states at the World Trade Organization on Friday. The issue will be debated at the WTO’s Council on the Trade in Goods, where the WTO’s 164 members can weigh in on major areas of trade friction. Airing such concerns is not a complaint in itself, but often signals that a legal dispute is on the way. The row in the Gulf erupted this month when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt broke off ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and being an ally of regional foe Iran. The row has not yet been raised at the WTO, where Qatar and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, have appeared to work together as usual. In the WTO agenda, Qatar merely said it wanted to discuss “trade restrictive measures by certain members”.

Italy confident in Amir
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano on Wednesday affirmed his country’s confidence in efforts exerted by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah to heal the Gulf rift. The minister expressed his hope that the Gulf parties would return soon to dialogue so as to find a resolution to the crisis, Italy’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

This came during a meeting between Alfano and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, the statement added. It noted that the Gulf crisis, the path of implementing the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 as well as bilateral and international issues of common concern featured high on talks held between Alfano and Zarif.

Regarding the agreement, Alfano urged the Iranian side to continue implementing the provisions of the deal and the UN Security Council Resolution 2231. He expressed his country’s support for reintegrating Iran into the global financial system. The Italian official invited Zarif to attend the third session of the 2017 Mediterranean dialogue conference due in Italy next November.

Qatar open for dialogue
Qatar is ready to discuss “legitimate issues” with Arab states to end a regional crisis, but it said a list presented by them last week contained some demands that were impossible to be met because they were not true.

The feud erupted this month when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt broke off ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and being an ally of regional foe Iran. Severing diplomatic and travel links set off one of the worst rifts in years between the US allies. The four countries have sent Doha a list of 13 demands, including closing the state-funded Al Jazeera television and reducing ties to Iran, an official of one of the four countries said, and gave Doha 10 days to comply.

The deadline is expected to expire on Sunday. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said on Thursday that Doha was interested in negotiating legitimate issues concerning fellow Gulf states, but said some of the demands were not reasonable. “We cannot ‘sever links with socalled Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah’ because no such links exist,” he said in a statement. “And we cannot ‘expel any members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’ because there are none in Qatar.”

The UAE ambassador to Russia has said Qatar could face fresh sanctions if it does not comply with the demands. The Gulf states could ask their trading partners to choose between working with them or Doha, he said in a newspaper interview. Sheikh Mohammed said that since it was impossible for Doha to stop doing things it had never been doing, “we are left to conclude that the purpose of the ultimatum was not to address the issues listed, but to pressure Qatar to surrender its sovereignty. This is something we will not do”.

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