June 9, 2017 / 8:42 AM / 3 years ago

Germany urges diplomatic solution to Qatar crisis

WOLFENBUETTEL/BERLIN, Germany (Reuters) - Germany called for greater diplomatic efforts to resolve the Qatar crisis and said Arab states should lift their blockade of the small Gulf state and avoid any escalation into violence.

“Along with our American colleagues but above all our colleagues in the region, we must try to find solutions, especially lifting the sea and air blockades,” Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters in Wolfenbuettel, Germany.

“We’re talking about food and many other things,” he said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar this week over its alleged support for terrorism and the agenda of regional arch-rival Iran, charges Qatar dismissed as baseless.

Visiting Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, speaking after talks with Gabriel, said the blockade of Qatar broke international law and described the severing of links to his country as “collective punishment.”

“These procedures that were taken (are) clear violations of international law and international humanitarian law. They will not have a positive impact on the region but a negative one,” he said.

Earlier, the four Arab nations stepped up pressure on Qatar, issuing a list of dozens of people designated as terrorists with alleged links to Qatar. Sheikh Mohammed said it included journalists and other individuals with no relationship to Qatar. Some had never even visited the country.

Gabriel’s spokesman Martin Schaefer later urged Iran, a Shi’ite state that Sunni Saudi Arabia accuses of supporting militant groups across the Middle East, to refrain from any move that could exacerbate the crisis.

“It is important that nothing is done on the other side of the Gulf ... to pour oil on the fire,” he told a regular news conference in Berlin. Germany would try to promote dialogue but did not intend to become a key mediator in the crisis, he said.

Gabriel was optimistic diplomatic efforts could resolve the crisis and said “it must not end in further escalations that include violence.”

Many countries in the region, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, had previously supported organisations viewed by Germany as dangerous, Gabriel said.

Germany would pursue its concerns about indirect support for militant groups by individuals living in Qatar via its intelligence services, said Gabriel, adding that he believed Doha would respect its agreements with Berlin.

Reporting by Reuters TV and Andrea Shalal in Germany, and Stephen Kalin and Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Editing by Michelle Martin and Jon Boyle

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