June 5, 2020 / 5:49 PM / 2 months ago

Qatar's foreign minister says there is a new initiative to end Gulf crisis

CAIRO (Reuters) - Qatar’s foreign minister said on Friday there is a new initiative to end the three-year-old Gulf crisis and that Qatar is open to negotiations, Qatar’s Al Jazeera broadcaster reported on its twitter account.

FILE PHOTO: Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim, in Baghdad, Iraq January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

“We hope the initiative will produce results, we are open to dialogue and ready to meet each step forward with 10 steps from our side,” Al Jazeera’s tweet quoted foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017 over allegations that it backs terrorism. Doha denies that and accuses them of trying to curtail its sovereignty.

Kuwait and the United States have tried to mediate a rift that has undermined Washington’s efforts to form a united front against Iran, which is locked in a struggle for regional supremacy with Saudi Arabia.

“We hope this initiative is different than previous ones and it is taken seriously,” the minister said, adding that there were some talks with Saudi Arabia at the end of 2019, but the process had stopped.

The United States has launched a new push on the four countries to reopen Gulf airspace for Qatari jets, especially Qatari Airways’ aircraft, as a first step to ending the crisis, sources told Reuters.

“It is not the first time that the Americans have tried... Our position has not changed,” a Gulf official said.

Qatar hosts the biggest U.S. military base in the region, while Bahrain hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet and both Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia host U.S. troops.

The boycotting nations set 13 demands, including closing Al Jazeera television, shuttering a Turkish base, downgrading ties with Iran and cutting links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar had repeatedly denied it had direct ties with the Brotherhood, which the other countries call a terrorist organization.

Reporting by Hesham Abdul Khalek in Cairo and Aziz Al Yakoubi in Dubai; Writing by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Chris Reese and Alex Richardson

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