Qatar must 'change policies', says Saudi foreign minister

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Most of Qatar's land, air and sea ports are being blocked amid a diplomatic dispute with some its Middle Eastern neighbours. It's seen the country's stocks and currency drop and it's also affecting consumers. VIDEO: REUTERS
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir in a 2015 file photo. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Qatar must "change their policies" and stop supporting "extremist groups", the Saudi foreign minister said on Tuesday in Paris (June 6), a day after his nation and its allies cut off ties with the Gulf state.

"They have to change their policies" and "stop supporting extremist groups," Adel Al-Jubeir told reporters, adding that Qatar needed "to act like a normal country."

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting extremism.

In a surprise move against a key ally, US President Donald Trump suggested Qatar - home to the largest American airbase in the Middle East - was funding extremism as he tacitly backed the diplomatic blockade of the emirate.

"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's broadside came as Kuwait's ruler flew to Saudi Arabia in a bid to resolve the worst diplomatic crisis to hit the Arab world in years.

The Saudi top diplomat did not specify what he wanted from Qatar, saying that "a number of steps can be taken, they know it".

When asked about possible international diplomatic efforts to end the crisis, he said, "I don't believe there is a mediation. This is an internal GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) issue."

"We decided to make it clear that enough is enough," Jubeir said, also indicating that they were not interested in regime change in Qatar.

"We want Qatar to be an ally in finding peace and stability in the region," he said.

In 2014, Qatar promised to cease sheltering Islamist leaders and tempered the tone of its powerful TV channel Al-Jazeera, accused of being a mouthpiece for Islamists in the Arab world.

When asked about the Saudi arch-rival in the region Iran, Jubeir called it "an aggressive and hostile state" that would probably try to exploit the situation which would only make it worse for Qatar.

Energy-rich Qatar has long had strained ties with its neighbours but the move by Riyadh and its supporters raised fears of more volatility in the region.

It was already having tangible effects, with dozens of flights cancelled, Qatari planes barred from regional airspace, and panic buying in Doha amid fears of food shortages.

Kuwait did not join fellow Gulf countries in taking measures against Doha, and its Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah arrived in the Saudi city of Jeddah for talks to resolve the crisis.

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani signalled his nation was open to talks, calling for "a dialogue of openness and honesty" to resolve the crisis.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for Gulf unity, saying he was ready to back "all initiatives to encourage calm".

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