Saudi Arabia, Qatar leaders’ phone call falls through over ‘distortion of facts’

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Saudi Arabia on Saturday suspended any dialogue with Qatar, accusing it of distorting facts soon after a phone call between the rulers of both countries offered hope of a breakthrough in the three-month-old Gulf crisis.

Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to express interest in talks, state media from both sides said, in the first public dialogue between the leaders after the United States president offered to mediate in the crisis.

The crown prince “welcomed this desire,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) initially reported, adding “details will be announced after Saudi Arabia reaches an agreement with UAE and Bahrain and Egypt”.

But the prospect of a thaw quickly died down after SPA subsequently accused Qatar’s state media of wrongly implying that Saudi Arabia had initiated the outreach.

“What was published by Qatar News Agency is continuation of Qatari authority’s distortion of facts,” SPA said, adding that any dialogue was now suspended.

The development came after US President Donald Trump on Friday spoke separately with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.

“The president underscored that unity among the US’ Arab partners is essential to promoting regional stability and countering the threat of Iran,” the White House said.

“The president also emphasised that all countries must follow through on commitments… to defeat terrorism, cut off funding for terrorist groups, and combat extremist ideology.”

When he offered to mediate, Trump said he believed the dispute could be solved “fairly easily”.

Saudi Arabia led the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain in cutting ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of bankrolling extremist groups and of being too close to regional rival Iran. Doha denies the accusations.

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