May 26, 2017 / 8:16 PM / 3 months ago

Kuwaiti envoy meets Qatar's emir amid Gulf dispute

DUBAI, May 26 (Reuters) - Kuwait's foreign minister met Qatar's ruler on Friday for talks that appeared aimed at trying to ease renewed tensions between Qatar and fellow Gulf Arabs over its policy towards Iran and regional Islamist groups.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates signalled frustration at Qatar after its state media published purported remarks by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani criticising Gulf rhetoric against Iran and suggesting tensions between the emir and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Qatar said the remarks, published late on Tuesday, were fake and that the news agency that ran them had been hacked in an apparent attempt to misrepresent Sheikh Tamim's views.

But Gulf Arab countries including Saudi Arabia allowed their state-backed media to run them throughout the day on Wednesday, infuriating Doha and triggering a war of words in regional media.

Kuwait, which acted as a mediator during a previous Gulf dispute with Qatar, sent its top diplomat Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah to visit Sheikh Tamim on Friday. He conveyed greetings from the Kuwaiti emir to the ruler and Qatari people, state news agency KUNA said, without elaborating.

A Gulf Arab official told Reuters on Thursday that Kuwait's emir had offered during a conversation with Sheikh Tamim to mediate and host talks to ensure the feud does not escalate. Kuwaiti officials were not immediately available for comment.

On Thursday Qatar's foreign minister told reporters Doha wanted to maintain "strong and brotherly relations with GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries."

Rifts between Qatar and other regional states have implications far beyond their borders. Gulf countries have used their oil and gas wealth to influence events in the wider Arab world and relations can affect the political balance in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

"In a turbulent region, there is no alternative to Gulf unity, and Saudi Arabia is the linchpin," UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash wrote on Twitter on Friday, calling on all Gulf states to rally around the dominant GCC power.

Since the dispute erupted, authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE have blocked the main website of Qatar-based al Jazeera television, which Riyadh and Abu Dhabi see as critical of their governments. On Friday some Al Jazeera television channels were also still blocked. The station says it is an independent news service giving a voice to all sides in the region.

The latest tensions came days after Gulf Arab leaders met Trump at a Riyadh summit of Muslim nations meant to showcase solidarity against Sunni Muslim armed militant groups and Shi'ite regional foe Iran.

Relations between Qatar and other Gulf Arab states suffered an eight-month breach in 2014 over Qatar's alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood, whose political ideology challenges the principle of dynastic rule. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha in protest. (Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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