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Iraq’s FM talks to Qatari counterpart amid Arab dispute

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)
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (L), and Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (combination of images by AFP)

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has held a telephone conversation with his Qatari counterpart, discussing an ongoing dispute between Qatar and a number of other Arab countries, Qatari media say.

The state-run Qatar News Agency (QNA) and Qatari Al Sharq newspaper reported that Jaafari had talked to Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Sunday night.

The two discussed bilateral relations and a bitter dispute that has been going on between Qatar on the one side and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain on the other since late April.

There were no more details about the conversation.

Iraq has sought to stay neutral in the dispute among the Arab countries, and it was not clear who initiated the Sunday phone call. But the news is likely to draw some kind of reaction from Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh is considered the force behind the row with Qatar. It has accused Doha of “sponsoring terrorism” and led the other three Arab states in boycotting Qatar, including by laying a partial siege to the country.

Saudi Arabia has in the recent past attempted to cozy up to Iraq. Riyadh opened its embassy in Iraq in 2015 following a 25-year break. Various figures have exchanged bilateral visits more recently.

The Sunday telephone conversation between Jaafari and Sheikh Mohammed may now be perceived by Saudi Arabia as an unsolicited public foray into the dispute by Iraq.

War on the media front

The dispute originally erupted when an item appeared on the QNA’s website and Twitter account attributing certain remarks to Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The QNA quickly said that it had been hacked and that the emir had not made those remarks.

Saudi Arabian and Emirati media, however, picked up on the news item and continued to give coverage to the alleged remarks despite the Qatari denials.

Qatar has been claiming since then that it has been the subject of a misinformation campaign — and the subsequent boycott — because of its more independent foreign policies.

The New York Times said in an article on Saturday that tweets by official Saudi media outlets claiming that the Daesh terrorist group had endorsed Qatar were “apparently fake.”

On Friday, prospects for a resolution of the dispute quickly evaporated minutes after the Qatari emir held a telephone conversation with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Shortly after the QNA reported the development, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency cited a Saudi Foreign Ministry official as saying that Riyadh had suspended plans for negotiations with Qatar because the QNA had failed to mention that Doha had initiated the phone call.

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