US President Donald Trump says that leaders of Saudi Arabia and its regional allies had warned him that Qatar was funding “radical ideology” after he demanded they stop financing militant groups.
Trump made the comments on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and several other countries cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday over allegations that Doha is sponsoring terrorism and destabilizing the region.
“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!,” Trump tweeted, appearing to back Saudi Arabia and its allies in the diplomatic crisis.
Qatar vehemently denies the accusations that it supports extremist groups, calling them baseless. Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Al Jazeera on Monday that the growing tensions were the result of fabrications in Saudi- and Emirati-controlled media.
The split among the Arab states erupted last month after Trump visited Saudi Arabia where he accused Iran of “destabilizing interventions” in Arab lands.
Saudi Arabia was the first stop on Trump’s first international trip on May 20. No other US president has made the kingdom their first foreign visit.
A promise to receive $110 billion worth of weapons from Trump appears to have emboldened the Saudis to adopt a more hawkish regional diplomacy.
The US president also met with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during his visit to Riyadh. “We are friends, we’ve been friends now for a long time, haven’t we?” Trump asked at the meeting. “Our relationship is extremely good.”
Emir of Kuwait Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (L), Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (C) and Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi attend a summit on December 7, 2016, in the Bahraini capital Manama. (Photo by AFP)
The rift between Qatar and its Arab neighbors has plunged the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into a diplomatic crisis.
Late last month, Qatar’s state-run news
agency released comments attributed to the Qatari emir in which he described Iran as a force for stability and accused the Saudis of promoting extremism.
Faced with the backlash, the Qatari government was quick to claim that hackers had broken into the QNA website and published the “fake news.”
Afterwards, Saudi Arabia and the UAE blocked access to Qatari media, including Al Jazeera, and Egypt accused the international news channel of “inciting terrorism” and “fabricating news.”
Doha has long faced criticism from its Arab neighbors over its support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Back in 2014, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in protest at what they called Doha’s “interference in their internal affairs.”