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Qatar ruler phones Saudi crown prince to start Gulf crisis talks

Qatari and Saudi leaders have spoken on the phone to discuss the ongoing diplomatic crisis. But hopes for a breakthrough quickly fizzled as the two countries got into a spat over the details of the call.

Qatar's ruler called Saudi Arabia's crown prince to express an interest in starting talks to resolve a three-month dispute between Doha and neighboring Arab countries, state media in both countries reported early Saturday.

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "welcomed this desire," Saudi state news agency SPA said.

The report added that "details will be announced after Saudi Arabia reaches an agreement with UAE and Bahrain and Egypt," which are the other Arab countries that cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in June.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (pictured above) "expressed his desire to sit at the dialogue table and discuss the demands of the four countries to ensure the interests of all," SPA reported.

Read more: What is the Qatar crisis?

Conflicting accounts

As quickly as hopes for a possible breakthrough in the crisis were raised, the relations between the two nations soured again with Saudi Arabia suddenly announcing that it was suspending dialogue with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of "distorting facts" in its report on the call, although both nations reported that the call had taken place.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia declares that any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar shall be suspended until a clear statement explaining its position is made in public and that its public statements are in conformity with its obligations," SPA reported after speaking with a Saudi foreign ministry official.

Qatar's state news agency QNA reported that the phone call was based on the coordination of US President Donald Trump.

The QNA report went on to say that Qatar's emir welcomed the Saudi prince's proposal during the call to "to assign two envoys to resolve controversial issues in a way that does not affect the sovereignty of the states."

Read more: Qatar-Gulf crisis spreads to Africa

Trump to mediate

The phone call, the first publically reported contact between the two countries since the crisis broke out, came after US President Donald Trump offered on Thursday to mediate.

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US, Qatar sign agreement on fighting terrorism

The White House released a statement saying that Trump spoke separately with the Saudi crown prince, Qatar's emir and the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Trump reportedly urged that unity among Washington's Arab partners was key to promoting regional stability.

Read more: Erdogan travels to Gulf region to help mend rift between Qatar and its neighbors

"The president also emphasized 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," the statement said.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut off diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, suspending shipping and air routes with a country that is the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas as well as the home of the region's largest US military base.

The Saudi-led bloc accuses Qatar of supporting Islamists and regional foe Iran – charges which Qatar's leaders deny – and has issued a list of 13 demands. The list includes shutting Doha-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera and reducing Qatar's diplomatic ties with Iran.

rs/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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