Qatari, Saudi leaders have a phone call, start new dispute

JON GAMBRELL
FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2011 photo, a traditional dhow floats in the Corniche Bay of Doha, Qatar, with tall buildings of the financial district in the background. Leaders in Qatar and Saudi Arabia have had their first high-level contact since a diplomatic dispute began months ago, but the terms of what was discussed are now in dispute. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Leaders in Qatar and Saudi Arabia spoke by telephone early Saturday in their first high-level contact since an Arab diplomatic crisis engulfed Doha three months ago, but now even terms of what they discussed have created a new dispute.

That even this small step toward a resolution creates new tension shows how deeply the boycott of Qatar has cut across the typically clubby politics of the Gulf Arab states.

The call also comes after Kuwait's emir, who so far has been unsuccessful in mediating the dispute, met Thursday in the White House with President Donald Trump, who himself offered to arbitrate.

Both governments acknowledged a call between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, next in line to the kingdom's throne, and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

After the call, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said Crown Prince Mohammed would talk to Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — the other Arab nations boycotting Qatar — and then release details.

The state-run Qatar News Agency immediately published details of the call, saying that Riyadh and Doha had agreed to send two envoys to discuss the dispute.

Qatar said that call came after Trump personally spoke with Sheikh Tamim. The White House earlier acknowledged Trump spoke with Sheikh Tamim and Crown Prince Mohammed, as well as Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince.

The Saudi and Qatari leaders "stressed the need to resolve this crisis by sitting down to the dialogue to ensure the unity and stability" of Gulf nations, the Qatar News Agency account read.

Saudi Arabia reacted angrily to the Qatari statement, issuing a second message saying Doha's statement did not have "any relevance to truth."

"This proves that the authority in Qatar is not serious in dialogue and continues its previous policies," the SPA said. "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia declares that any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar shall be suspended until a clear statement explaining its position is made in public."

The Qatar crisis began June 5, with boycotting nations cutting off Doha's land, sea and air routes over its alleged support of extremists and close ties to Iran. Qatar long has denied funding extremists and recently restored full diplomatic relations with Iran, with whom it shares a massive offshore natural gas field.

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