France aims to be ‘facilitator’ in Gulf crisis talks

French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) embraces his Qatari counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani as they walk out of a press conference in the Qatari capital Doha on July 15, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER

French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) embraces his Qatari counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani as they walk out of a press conference in the Qatari capital Doha on July 15, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday that Paris wants to assist Kuwait-led mediation on the crisis between Qatar and four other Arab states after holding talks in Doha and Jeddah.

Le Drian stopped in Qatar at the start of a Gulf tour aimed at helping defuse the crisis pitting Qatar against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt.

He later flew to Jeddah for talks with Saudi officials.

“France should be a facilitator in the mediation” led by Kuwait, Le Drian told reporters after talks with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

Le Drian reiterated the same statement in Jeddah.

“France is very concerned by the sudden deterioration in relations between Qatar and many of its neighbours,” he said in Doha where he also met the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

“France is talking to all these countries to help in the search for a solution,” he said, calling for “dialogue and calm” between the Arab states concerned.

Le Drian arrived in the region after a four-day mediation mission by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended on Thursday with no announcement of progress towards defusing mounting tensions in the Gulf.

Qatar’s foreign minister welcomed France’s support for mediation aimed at finding a solution “based on constructive dialogue… and respect of state sovereignty and international law”.

“We look forward to France’s support of the Kuwaiti mediation and American efforts,” he said.

Riyadh and its allies imposed sanctions on Doha on June 5, including closing its only land border, denying Qatar access to their airspace and ordering their citizens back from the emirate.

– Plea for Gulf unity –

They accuse Doha of supporting extremism and being too close to their arch-rival Iran.

Le Drian said France counted on “reinforcing cooperation with Qatar in the fight against terrorism, particularly in combatting terrorism financing”.

His Qatari host said the fight against terrorism needed collective efforts and “cannot be shouldered by one state”.

“Combatting terrorism also cannot be through practising political and intellectual terrorism against a state,” Sheikh Mohammed said, referring to the measures taken against Doha by its neighbours.

In Jeddah, Le Drian met his counterpart Adel Jubeir and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“We look for everyone’s determined commitment against terrorism, its support and financing. In this perspective, it is important that GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries should be united, to remain a rampart against instability,” he said.

Jubeir said Saudi Arabia would present Le Drian with “comprehensive dossiers of the negative acts committed by Qatar over years”, adding that a similar file was given to Tillerson.

He said, however, that Riyadh hopes the crisis could still be solved “within the Gulf house”.

Le Drian agreed that “solving this crisis should be done by the Gulf countries themselves”, reiterating Paris’s support for Kuwaiti mediation.

“France does not want to substitute the mediator… It wants to be a facilitator by joining efforts of other countries,” he stressed, adding that Tillerson’s initiative is “suitable”.

On bilateral relations, Le Drian said he agreed with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to activate a joint French-Saudi commission that has been idle for years.

After Saudi Arabia, Le Drian travels to Kuwait and the UAE.

JeddahSaudi Arabia | AFP

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