US, Kuwait step up efforts to end Qatar blockade

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 08.06.2017 23:29

In addition to Turkey's efforts, the U.S. and Kuwait have also stepped up efforts to mediate an ending to the Qatar crisis. On Wednesday, the White House announced that U.S. President Donald Trump called Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani offering to serve as a mediator to help the parties resolve the crisis between Doha and Arab countries by inviting them to the White House for a meeting, if necessary. In his call, Trump told Qatar's leader, that it is important for the countries in the region to work together, "To prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and stop the promotion of extremist ideology," according to a White House statement. After the call, White House officials also said, "The president offered to help the parties resolve their differences, including through a meeting at the White House if necessary."

According to Qatari officials, during the call President Trump "expressed his readiness to find a solution to the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, stressing his keenness on maintaining stability in the Gulf." Later on, President Trump spoke with Abu Dhabi's crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan calling for unity among Gulf Arabs, while the White House stressed, "but never at the expense of eliminating funding for radical extremism or defeating terrorism."

Meanwhile, Kuwaiti Emir Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who played a pivotal role in mediating a compromise in a 2014 diplomatic dispute between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states, flew to Qatar Wednesday night and met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. The Qatari Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the two held talks on how to "restore normal relations" in the Gulf.

In the meantime, Qatar has released the initial results of its investigation into an alleged cyberattack targeting the country's official news outlet, Qatar News Agency (QNA), which fueled a diplomatic crisis between the state and other Arab nations. A written statement from the Qatar Interior Ministry released late Wednesday claimed that the QNA was first hacked in April using "high techniques and innovative methods."

The Ministry said hackers had installed a file and then published "fake news" attributed to Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani just after midnight on May 24.

Qatar's government made a statement several hours after the news appeared, saying that the QNA site had been hacked. The Qatar Foreign Ministry repeated this information in its statement, adding that the news item did not reflect the truth and requesting that other media outlets ignore the "fake" piece of news. The statement did not reveal any possible suspects for the attack, but the ministry thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the British National Commission for Combating Crime for assisting in the investigation. The alleged "fake" news item, which quoted Sheikh Al-Thani making controversial comments about Iran and Israel, was immediately picked up by Saudi and Emirati media, laying the groundwork for the crisis that began Monday. At a press conference on May 25, Qatar Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani stated that Qatar had clearly been the victim of a campaign, adding that the country would stand against the attack.

Nevertheless, Russian officials rejected allegations on Wednesday that Russian hackers had breached Qatar's state news agency and planted a fake news story that led to a split between Qatar and the other Arab nations. Andrei Krutskhikh, Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy for cyber security, told the Interfax news agency that Tuesday's CNN report contains "zero evidence" that the Russian government was behind the news story. Russian President Putin also had a telephone conversation with the Qatar'i Emir Tani on Tuesday urging for dialogue.

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