June 6, 2017 / 11:51 AM / 2 months ago

France wants row between Arab states, Qatar settled through talks

3 Min Read

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government said on Tuesday it wanted a diplomatic row between Arab states and Qatar to be resolved through dialogue and that it would talk with key regional powers to try to help diffuse the crisis.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Monday cut ties with Qatar, which denounced the move as based on lies about it supporting Islamist militants.

"France wishes that the current tensions are resolved through dialogue," the foreign ministry said in a daily online briefing.

France, one of five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, nurtured close economic and military ties with Gulf Arab states and Egypt under the previous socialist government of former president Francois Hollande.

Business links between France and Qatar in particular deepened as Paris lured foreigners to invest in areas from sports to real estate and infrastructure.

During the presidential election campaign, however, officials across the political divide said France should review ties with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who have both been accused by of funding Islamists.

Newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron promises to be demanding of Gulf Arab states. His justice minister on Tuesday said France should end tax breaks granted to Qatar, though there was no suggestion the proposed move was linked to the Arab states' row.

Macron has also indicated a willingness to improve ties with Shi'ite Iran, the arch rival of oil-exporting Sunni monarchies in the Gulf.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain will meet his Saudi counterpart later on Tuesday as well as call the Qatari foreign minister, the ministry said. Diplomats said, however, that there was no specific French mediation effort.

Le Drian is also due to meet a representative of Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince on Wednesday to discuss the issue, before heading to Egypt for a scheduled visit on Thursday.

"We stand beside the countries in the region in the necessary intensification of the fight against terrorist groups, their supporters and financing," the ministry said when asked if Paris would review its ties to Doha in light of the accusations that it supports Islamist groups.

Reporting by John Irish; editing by Richard Lough

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