The first official contact between Qatar and Saudi Arabia was reported as Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani called Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the Gulf row. It was reported that the two leaders expressed a willingness to discuss an end to the rift.
However, there seems to be a dispute over protocol – with some reports pointing to Qatar News Agency’s (QNA) apparent failure to mention that it was Doha that had initiated the call.
QNA had reported that the telephonic conversation was coordinated by US President Donald Trump.
In the phone discussion, Sheikh Tamim and Mohammed bin Salman “stressed the need to resolve this crisis” through dialogue “to ensure the unity and stability” of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), said QNA.
The Qatari emir welcomed a proposal by the Saudi crown prince to assign two envoys to resolve the dispute “in a way that does not affect the sovereignty of states”, the Qatari news agency added.
Saudi state news agency SPA confirmed the talk between the two leaders, saying that Sheikh Tamim had called Mohammed bin Salman and “expressed his desire” to discuss the demands of the four blockading countries.
“The details will be announced later after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia concludes an understanding with the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Arab Republic of Egypt,” it added.
But SPA later issued a second statement, citing an unnamed official at the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs as saying that what QNA had published earlier in its report about the phone call was a “distortion of … facts”.
“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 second statement added.
The latest dispute came after the White House issued a statement saying that Trump had separate conversation with both the leaders and also with UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
In his phone calls, Trump told the Gulf leaders that unity among Washington’s Arab allies was essential to promoting regional stability and countering the threat of Iran, the statement added.
“The president also emphasised that all countries must follow through on commitments from the Riyadh Summit to defeat terrorism, cut off funding for terrorist groups, and combat extremist ideology,” it said.
Mohammed Cherkaoui, a professor at George Mason University, said he was still optimistic about the call.
“I remain optimistic since there was a major turning point in the conflict itself, and I think now that we’re watching the end of the escalation process that started three months ago,” Cherkaoui told.
“The latest news now that there is this resistance – this is normal because conflict escalation comes fast and mediation is very slow by its nature,” he added.