PARIS (Reuters) - Qatar’s foreign minister said on Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump was stepping up efforts for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in the Gulf.
Trump initially took a hard line against Qatar, calling it a “high level” sponsor of terrorism after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt shook the region by cutting political and trade ties with the small state in June.
The action suspended air and shipping routes with the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, which is home to the region’s biggest U.S. military base.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told reporters in Paris that he had seen a “greater desire” from Trump to fix the stand-off through discussion.
“He has stated very clearly that he doesn’t want to see conflict among friends. So there is a determination by the U.S. to solve this by dialogue.”
There was no immediate comment from the White House. In Trump’s initial comments in June, he suggested he had helped plan the Qatar action with Arab leaders, though last week he said he expected the dispute to be solved quickly.
The nations say Doha supports regional foe Iran and Islamists, charges Qatar’s leaders deny.
Al-Thani said Qatar was doing well economically despite the sanctions, but said the Arab action was actually driving Qatar closer to Tehran, something Doha has acknowledged in the past.
“They said Qatar was now closer to Iran. By their measures they are pushing Qatar to Iran. They are giving Iran, or any regional force, Qatar like a gift,” he said.
“Is that their objective, to push one country, a GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) member state toward Iran? This is not a wise objective,” he added.
Al-Thani said Qatar’s position over Syria had not changed. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have backed Syrian rebels, despite their differences.
“After eight months, after the militarization of the (Syrian) revolution, this is when Qatar decided to take a side. We decided to stand with the people,” said al-Thani.
“Our position - will it be changed because blockading nations have a dispute with us? That would mean our principles that we are fighting for our worthless. Our position and the values which we have stuck to from the beginning have remained the same. War criminals need to be held accountable,” he added.
Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Andrew Heavens