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Saudi Arabia says Gulf crisis can only be resolved within GCC

Rome: Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Friday that the crisis between Qatar and a Saudi-led Arab alliance could only be resolved within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Al-Jubeir made the remarks here after meeting his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano, the state-run Kuwaiti news agency KUNA reported.

Responding to a question by a KUNA reporter, Al-Jubeir said the Saudi-led bloc, which also includes the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt, hopes Qatar would accept and commit to the six principles it has tabled.

The principles include demands for Doha to commit to fighting terrorism and extremism and preventing their financing, prohibit inciting propaganda against its neighbours and stop interfering in their internal affairs.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, as well as Qatar, are all members of the six-nation GCC, whose members also include Oman and Kuwait, which have not joined the anti-Qatari bloc. Kuwait has been playing the role of mediator to broker an end to the Gulf standoff.

The crisis started early last month when the Saudi-led alliance abruptly cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a blockade on the tiny rich Gulf nation, citing its support to terrorism and interference in their internal affairs.

Initially, the Saudi-led bloc issued a list of 13 demands for Doha to correct its policies, including closing the Al-Jazeera TV, stopping financial support to terrorism and downgrading its ties with Iran, as preconditions for resuming diplomatic ties.

Qatar has rejected the charges while refusing to accept the demands, citing the right to defend its sovereignty.

But signs of easing of the crisis have emerged following a recent visit to the Gulf by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as the Saudi-led group agreed to water down their demands to six broad principles.

During Tillerson’s visit, Qatar and the US signed a deal on combating terrorism financing, one of the core demands by the Saudi-led alliance.

Meanwhile, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani issued a decree on Thursday to amend some provisions of its law on fighting terrorism, including defining the terms of “terrorist acts”, “terrorist entities” and “freezing of funds”, as well as procedures related to “terrorist activities”.

This was immediately welcomed by UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash, who said on Friday through Twitter that Qatar’s decree to amend the law on combating terrorism was “a positive step.”

Gargash said that the pressure on Doha by the bloc “pays off” and could lead to “a sensible change of direction as a whole”.

–IANS