DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The latest on the Gulf crisis after Saudi Arabia and other nations cut ties to Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism (all times local):
Egypt is asking the U.N. Security Council to investigate reports that Qatar “paid up to $1 billion to a terrorist group active in Iraq” to free 26 hostages including members of its royal family, which would violate U.N. sanctions.
Egypt’s deputy U.N. ambassador Ihab Moustafa told a council meeting Thursday that all 193 U.N. member states are obligated under sanctions resolutions “to prevent terrorists from directly or indirectly benefiting from ransom payments, or from political concessions.”
The Qataris were kidnapped Dec. 16, 2015 from a desert camp for falcon hunters in southern Iraq.
Several people with knowledge of negotiations which led to their release on April 22 told The Associated Press that the talks were probably the region’s most complex and sensitive hostage deal. The AP reported a week before the release that a Qatari ruling family member paid $2 million, in an effort involving hackers, to secure the release of the hostages.
Moustafa said if Qatar paid ransom to a group linked to Islamic State militants, it would be “a clear support to terrorism” and would “definitely have a negative bearing on counterterrorism efforts on the ground.”
President Donald Trump is offering Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to mediate the crisis between Qatar and other Arab nations.
That’s according to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. But Nauert says the U.S. preference is for the countries involved in the crisis to resolve it amongst themselves.
Nauert says the U.S. isn’t sure whether the countries in the region will take up the U.S. on its offer to mediate. Qatar has already indicated its emir wouldn’t be able to travel to the U.S. to participate in a meeting.
Tillerson has experience in Saudi Arabia and other countries involved in the dispute from his time as the former Exxon Mobil CEO. Nauert says that Tillerson was speaking with the White House on Thursday about the U.S. offer to help.
The Qatar-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera says it is under cyberattack on “all systems.”
The network tweeted about the attack Thursday, three days after Saudi Arabia and its allies severed ties with Qatar and cut off land, sea and air routes to the Gulf nation.
Al Jazeera says on its website that its digital properties are under “systemic and continual hacking attempts.”
The Al-Jazeera website appeared to be operating normally in New York.
Al-Jazeera has long angered Middle Eastern governments with its coverage of protests, opposition movements and controversial issues.
Qatar’s top diplomat says no one gave Arab nations the right to “blockade” his energy-rich country, and that the campaign by Saudi Arabia and its allies to isolate Qatar is based on “false and fabricated news.”
Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani struck a defiant tone three days after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and other nations cut diplomatic ties as well as air, land and sea access to his nation.
The other countries accuse Qatar of supporting regional terrorist groups, allegations denied by Doha.
Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar would not shut down its Al-Jazeera news network, adding: “If anyone thinks they are going to impose anything on my internal affairs or my internal issues, this is not going to happen.”
He also said Qatar’s ruling emir will not leave the country while it is “in blockade,” so he can’t attend an offered mediation by U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House.
Sudan says it will not take sides in the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf amid calls from Sudanese lawmakers to back Qatar, its oil-rich ally, against Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
Responding to questions from lawmakers on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said he expected Gulf Arab states to overcome the crisis given the “strong relations and blood ties” between them.
Sudan, which has close political and economic ties to Qatar, has expressed concern over “the regretful development between brotherly Arab states.” It also offered to mediate to defuse tensions, according to its state news agency.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have severed diplomatic ties and suspended air and sea links with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Qatar denies the allegations.
The Central African nation of Chad has recalled its ambassador from Qatar, joining Saudi Arabia and other nations who have moved to isolate the small Gulf country over allegations it supports terrorism.
In a statement released Thursday, Chad’s Foreign Ministry urged countries to use dialogue to resolve the escalating dispute.
Chad, a predominantly Muslim country, joins the West African nations of Senegal and Mauritania, which have also recalled their ambassadors from Qatar.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen have accused Qatar of supporting regional terror groups, allegations denied by the Qatari government.
Bahrain is warning the island’s media outlets not to “publish or circulate anything that condones or justifies Qatari policies by any means.”
Bahrain’s Information Affairs Ministry said Thursday that those who do publish material sympathetic to Qatar “will be held responsible,” without elaborating.
Bahrain’s decision comes after the UAE on Wednesday warned that those who are sympathetic to Qatar on social media could face three to 15 years in prison and fines starting from 500,000 dirhams ($136,000).
Bahrain already has shut down what many believe is its only independent newspaper and refused to accredit journalists, including two from The Associated Press. All that comes amid a crackdown on all dissent on the island home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and an under-construction British naval base.
The United Arab Emirates has blocked access to the website of Qatar Airlines amid an Arab nation campaign to isolate Qatar.
The website block began Thursday and follows the UAE blocking access to a series of Qatari media websites, including those of Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera.
The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority also announced on Twitter that it had “closed the airspace for all air traffic to and from Doha until further notice.” It already had blocked Qatar Airlines flights as local airlines had cut their own routes to Doha.
Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency says the Qatari foreign minister will visit Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart amid a diplomatic crisis between the Gulf nation and other Arab countries.
RIA Novosti said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Saturday. It quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying Thursday that Putin wasn’t scheduled to meet with Al Thani.
Putin had a telephone conversation with the emir of Qatar Tuesday, urging dialogue. Moscow rejected allegations that Russian hackers breached Qatar’s state news agency and planted a fake news story that led to a split between Qatar and the other Arab nations
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen have accused Qatar of harboring extremists. Qatar has denied the allegations.
A Pakistani cabinet minister says Islamabad will continue to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar under a 15-year agreement, despite the severing of diplomatic ties with Qatar by Saudi Arabia and some other countries.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the federal minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, said Qatar and Pakistan last year signed a $1 billion agreement, under which Qatar’s Liquefied Gas Company Limited will sell LNG from 2016 to year 2031 to state-run Pakistan State Oil.
He said since no sanctions have been imposed on Qatar by the United Nations, Pakistan and Qatar were bound to abide by the agreement.
Qatar has released an initial report into the alleged hack of its state-run news agency, an incident which helped spark a diplomatic crisis between the energy-rich country and Arab nations.
The Qatari Interior Ministry said late Wednesday that the website of the Qatar News Agency was initially hacked in April with “high techniques and innovative methods.”
It said hackers installed a file and then published a fake news item attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, just after midnight May 24.
The ministry did not say who it suspected carried out the attack. It also thanked the FBI and the British National Commission for Combating Crime for assisting it in its investigation.
The alleged fake news item, which had Sheikh Tamim making controversial comments on Iran and Israel, immediately was picked up by Saudi and Emirati media, laying the groundwork for the crisis that began Monday.
Kuwait’s emir has traveled to Qatar and met that country’s leader as part of his efforts to mediate an end to a crisis that’s seen Arab nations cut ties to the energy-rich country and attempt to isolate it.
Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah was met planeside by Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, when he arrived on Wednesday night.
The two held talks, though details of their discussions were not released. Sheikh Sabah earlier Wednesday traveled to Dubai where he met with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as prime minister and vice president of the UAE.
Sheikh Sabah also has traveled to Saudi Arabia in his efforts.