DAMASCUS, SYRIA (5:00 P.M.) – The government of Saudi Arabia has announced that it will sever all talks currently going on with Qatar, allegedly because of the misreporting of previous negotiations on behalf of the Qatar News Agency (QNA).
On Friday, QNA reported that a phone call had taken place between the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani and Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defence Mohammed bin Salman. According to the reports, the two talked about a possible solution for the ongoing tensions between both nations, as well as the end of the economic and travel blockade the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has imposed on the emirate.
The report continued by stating that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman repeated the list of demands that was set up by the quartet of nations that is currently still participating in the anti-Qatari blockade, being Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. However, according to QNA, the Prince did propose assigning two envoys to “resolve the dispute in a way that respects the sovereignty of states”, a move that could point to a thaw in relations between the two states. The news agency furthermore stated that the phone call was mediated by US President Donald Trump.
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA), official media outlet of the Saudi government however, vehemently disputes the Qatari report on the phone calls, and has accused QNA of “distorting the facts”. Even more, the Saudi government has announced to completely halt any and all official communication with the State of Qatar.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announces the suspension of any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar until a clear statement is issued clarifying its position in public,” the SPA reported.
The SPA did not clarify which part of the Qatari report they believe to provide distorted information. The move by Saudi Arabia may come as a surprise to many, since in the days running up to the phone calls, both sides had expressed a willingness to negotiate. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated after Friday’s talks between the Saudis and Qataris that “The United States (…) recognizes the importance of unity to meet the challenges of the region that we all face together, not the least of which is the threats from Iran.”, an apparent show of confidence in the negotiations.
Qatar’s friendly relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran was one of the main reasons why Saudi Arabia and three other nations severed diplomatical ties with Doha on June 5. Following this, the quartet of nations have since imposed a travel ban and economical blockade on Qatar, and have demanded that the country agree to a 13-point programme of demands which includes shutting down the Al Jazeera news agency and the termination of its support for Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups. Qatar has however dismissed these demands as unreasonable, and has maintained its course.