Trump speaks to Qatar emir, offers help in resolving crisis -White House

Pierre Vaugeois
Juin 20, 2017

The Qatari government says the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations established that hackers planted fake news to provoke retaliation against Qatar, MarketWatch reports, adding that Russian hackers may have been involved in accessing Qatar's state news service, according to U.S. intelligence sources.

S&P Global Ratings on Wednesday cut Qatar's credit rating by one notch to AA- and put it on watch for further downgrades after Gulf Arab states severed ties. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have accused Doha of supporting extremist groups but Tillerson suggested that all sides needed to do more.

Qatar has maintained its diplomatic clout in part by being the home of U.S. Central Command and the U.S's largest air base in the region and hosting branches of prestigious Western universities.

Doha has "historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level. the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding - they have to end that funding - and its extremist ideology", Trump said Friday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday evening called for lifting the blockade against Qatar, reaffirming Turkey's support for the Arab country. Gargash said the four Arab states seek a "political commitment to change course" by Qatar, including ending its support for the Brotherhood and Hamas.

In his second intervention in as many days, Trump urged action against terrorism in a call with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Wednesday and offered help in resolving the crisis, including through a meeting at the White House.

A preliminary investigation has confirmed that Qatar's state news agency was hacked, and false statements attributed to the country's ruler were posted that helped ignite a rift with other Gulf states, the Qatari foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

A day earlier, Trump discussed the crisis with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, which is leading the anti-Qatar campaign.

"We have all kinds of recordings taking place where they (Qatar) are coordinating with al Qaeda in Syria", he said.

The UAE yesterday announced a similar decision, warning that offenders could face between three and 15 years in prison and a fine of 500,000 dirhams (USD 136,125, 120,715 euros) should they criticise the decision to boycott Qatar.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have banned Al-Jazeera from the airwaves and closed the channel's offices. The State Department had said the USA learned only at the last minute about the Arab nations' plan to cut ties.

Qatar, an arid country about the size of the US state of CT, relies heavily on imports to feed its 2.7 million people, a lot of them expatriates.

U.S. investigators believe Russian hackers breached Qatar's state news agency and planted a fake report that contributed to the crisis, according to USA officials briefed on the investigation.

His views were echoed by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, fellow for the Middle East at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, who said that the branch campuses would inevitably be affected if Qatar remained under prolonged economic sanctions.

The UAE ambassador to Moscow, Omar Saif Ghobash, said: "It is up to the Qatari people and the royal family to decide if [regime change] is the right approach or not".

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