Germany warns Gulf crisis exacerbates Middle East ′powder keg′ | News | DW | 07.06.2017
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Germany warns Gulf crisis exacerbates Middle East 'powder keg'

Germany's foreign minister has met with his Saudi counterpart, seeking to defuse the Gulf crisis around Qatar. At the same time, Berlin hinted it was confused by contradictory statements from the US and its president.

Germany's foreign minster on Wednesday warned against deepening conflict in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia and other Arab states broke off ties with neighboring Qatar.

Speaking after meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Berlin, Sigmar Gabriel said "a deep dispute between neighbors is the last thing that is needed" in a region already beset by crises and the threat of greater military conflict.

Gabriel said after meeting with al-Jubeir that Germany was willing to mediate in the diplomatic spat, which he said threatened to weaken the international coalition against the so-called "Islamic State."

Al-Jubeir responded by saying the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) could handle the issue by itself and expressed hope the crisis would be resolved quickly. 

Saudi Arabia alongside Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain abruptly announced on Monday that they were cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar. They imposed an air, land and see embargo, and gave Qataris within their borders two weeks to leave. Qatar was also kicked out of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

The four countries also cut off food shipments as Qataris dashed to the supermarkets and Qatar's regional ally Turkey said Wednesday it would send food and other supplies while moving to expedite a planned deployment of troops to a Turkish base in Qatar.

Read: Saudi Arabia vs. Qatar vs. Iran

The move came in response to Qatar's alleged backing of various Islamist groups, including Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Doha's close relations with Iran and the Al-Jazeera media network's critical coverage in the region.

Gabriel earlier told the "Handelsblatt" newspaper he was concerned about escalating tensions and the US' strategy of "pure confrontation" with Iran, including arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Read: Saudi Arabia 'wants no more German weapons': report

Read: Germany sells arms to UAE despite Yemen conflict

"I am extremely concerned about the dramatic escalation of the situation and the consequences for the entire region," Gabriel said in an interview with the German business daily. "Such a Trumpification of relations with one another is particularly dangerous in a region that is already rife with crises," he said, in apparent reference to US President Donald Trump's divisive and confusing statements.

"Qatar, it appears, is being more or less completely isolated and existentially targeted," he added. "A further escalation serves no one. The Middle East is a political and military powder keg."

Trump created a stir on Tuesday when he took sides in the GCC conflict, writing on Twitter that his visit to Saudi Arabia last week was "already paying off."

"They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!" Trump tweeted, causing dismay in foreign policy circles.

The forward headquarters of US Central Command, responsible for military operations in the Middle East and the fight against IS, is based in Qatar.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer said in a separate news conference on Wednesday that Trump's stance differed from Berlin, while what he was hearing from the State Department was closer to the German line.

"I can indeed see differences in some 140 character comments by the American president," Schäfer told reporters, adding that German diplomats were in contact with the State Department and National Security Council for a clarification on the US position.

Meanwhile, Kuwait is taking the lead mediating a way out of the diplomatic crisis.

cw/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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