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Paris appoints envoy to help 'appease tensions' between Qatar, neighbors

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo shows Bertrand Besancenot, France's former ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The French Foreign Ministry has appointed a special envoy to handle the dispute between Qatar and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf region.

Bertrand Besancenot, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, was picked on Tuesday to support mediation efforts between Qatar and a Saudi-led block of countries that have cut ties to Doha on accusations of its support for terrorism.

“I confirm that Bertrand Besancenot, diplomatic advisor to the government, will soon go to the region to evaluate the situation and the best ways to support the mediation and appease tensions between Qatar and its neighbors,” said French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne during a daily briefing with reporters in the capital Paris.

The undated photo shows Bertrand Besancenot, second left, France's former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, in a meeting with Saudi King Salman, right, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The official did not elaborate on how France would contribute to an ongoing mediation scheme under the leadership of Kuwait, whose Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah has been shuttling between Arab and Western capitals in a bid to resolve the standoff, which began in June after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt ceased diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar.

Qatar has denied those countries’ accusations that it is supporting terrorists while rejecting demands by Saudi Arabia and allies for a downgrade in ties with Iran. Qatar says the standoff with its former Arab allies is a price it is paying for its independent foreign policy.

France is very close to Saudi Arabia and has over the past years sold billions of dollars' worth of weapons to the kingdom. Paris has also formed intimate bonds with the United Arab Emirates as it has been seen in meditation efforts on Libya, where the United Arab Emirates supports the camp opposing the internationally recognized government. France is a main backer of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a former military chief who has repeatedly been criticized by rights groups for crushing dissent.

France apparently seeks to protect its status as a main arms supplier to Qatar while maintaining partnerships that have enabled Doha to expedite its gas excavation projects in the Persian Gulf.

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