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Qatar rivals look to next move in Cairo talks

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Qatar Crisis

Arab states that have cut ties with Qatar held talks in Egypt on Wednesday to discuss their next move in the Gulf diplomatic crisis, as Doha called for dialogue to resolve the dispute.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry welcomed his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for the talks at a ministry building in central Cairo, a month after the countries severed ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting extremism.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Saudi foreign ministry said they had received Qatar’s response to their demands — which include Doha ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood and closing broadcaster Al-Jazeera — and would respond “at the right time”.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have not said what steps they could take next, but there are fears of a wider embargo that would hurt the Qatari economy, with credit ratings agency Moody’s announcing it was changing Qatar’s outlook to negative over the crisis.

The countries issued the 13-point list of demands on June 22, giving Qatar 10 days to respond. The deadline was extended by 48 hours on Sunday at the request of Kuwait, which is mediating in the crisis, and Qatar handed in the response on Monday.

The contents of the response have not been disclosed, but Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said Tuesday that the list of demands “is unrealistic and is not actionable”.

Qatar has denied any support for extremism and accused the countries of seeking to infringe on its sovereignty.

The other demands include Qatar downgrading ties with Iran — Saudi Arabia’s regional arch-rival — and shutting down a Turkish military base in the emirate.

– Qatar urges dialogue –

Qatar has said repeatedly it is ready for talks on the crisis and Sheikh Mohammed on Wednesday repeated that Doha is ready for dialogue.

“We welcome any serious efforts to resolve our differences with our neighbours,” he told the Chatham House think-tank in London.

He accused Saudi Arabia and its regional allies of “demanding that we must surrender our sovereignty as the price for ending the siege”.

Riyadh and its supporters have severed air, sea and ground links with Qatar, cutting off vital routes for imports including food.

They also ordered Qatari citizens to leave their territories and took various steps against Qatari firms and financial institutions.

The crisis has raised concerns of growing instability in the region, home to some of the world’s largest energy exporters and key Western allies who host US military bases.

Energy-rich Qatar has been defiant throughout the crisis, insisting it can weather action taken against it.

On Tuesday it even announced a major boost in planned natural gas output, with Qatar Petroleum saying it would increase production to 100 million tonnes a year by 2024, up 30 percent from current levels.

– ‘Economic and financial risks’ –

Qatar is the world’s leading producer of liquefied natural gas.

Its energy riches have transformed Qatar into one of the world’s wealthiest countries, a major international investor and a regional player that will host the 2022 football World Cup.

Concern has been growing, however, that a drawn-out crisis could have an economic impact.

Moody’s said it was changing its credit rating outlook for Qatar to negative from stable, citing “the economic and financial risks arising from the ongoing dispute”.

“The likelihood of a prolonged period of uncertainty extending into 2018 has increased and a quick resolution of the dispute is unlikely over the next few months,” the agency said.

Some critics of Qatar have accused it of links to extremist organisations including the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

But a British think-tank said Wednesday that foreign funding for Islamist extremism in Britain mostly originates from Saudi Arabia.

“While entities from across the Gulf and Iran have been guilty of advancing extremism, those in Saudi Arabia are undoubtedly at the top of the list,” Tom Wilson, a fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, a hawkish London-based foreign policy think-tank, said in a statement.

In a statement to the BBC, the Saudi embassy in London said the claims were “categorically false”.

Middle East

170 injured in fresh clashes in Palestine

The march of the millions is coming and is expected on May 15. This will be the climax of the Great March of Return.

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Palestinians
File Pic of Palestinians protester

Gaza, May 5 (IANS) Almost 170 Palestinian protesters were injured on Friday in clashes with Israeli soldiers near the border between eastern Gaza Strip and Israel, an official said.

Ashraf al Qedra, a Palestinian Health Ministry spokesperson, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that 170 demonstrators were injured, sustaining gunshots, rubber bullet injuries and gas suffocation.

Eyewitnesses said after Friday prayers, hundreds headed to five different locations along the border. Israeli soldiers using loudspeakers warned the demonstrators, asking them to “Go home for your safety”.

The protestors rolled burning tires to within 500 meters of the fence.

The Israeli military said some 7,000 Palestinians were protesting along the border. When “violent riots” erupted in five locations, it said troops responded with “riot dispersal means” and live fire.

Sallah Abdul Aati, one of the organizers of the rallies, said the protests will continue.

“The march of the millions is coming and is expected on May 15. This will be the climax of the Great March of Return,” he said.

The protests have been held for six consecutive weeks. As Israel celebrates its 70th independence anniversary, the Palestinians are demanding that the Palestinian refugees forced to leave their homes during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948 be allowed to return.

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Middle East

Rouhani warns Trump against walking away from n-deal

I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly.

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Tehran, April 24 : Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday warned his US counterpart Donald Trump that abandoning a nuclear deal that the Tehran government signed with world powers in 2015 would lead to “serious consequences”.

Speaking live on television, Rouhani said his government had kept its end of the deal and warned Trump not to tear up the agreement, which had also been signed by Russia, China, Germany, the UK and France.

“I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments, the Iranian government will react firmly,” Rouhani said.

“If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences,” he added.

Trump has said that unless the US’ European allies put right what he has described as “terrible flaws” in the deal by May 12, his government would re-establish economic sanctions on Iran, dealing the pact a major blow, Xinhua news agency reported.

Rouhani stressed that Iran was complying with the deal, as has been confirmed a dozen times by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose Director General Yukiya Amano said in March that a possible failure of the agreement would be a great loss.

French President Emmanuel Macron was in Washington in an attempt to try and persuade Trump not to walk away from the accord.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday he had agreed with his Chinese counterpart that Moscow and Beijing would try to block any US attempt to wreck the nuclear deal.

Iran has said it would ramp up its nuclear programme if the deal collapses.

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Middle East

Putin warns against further actions violating UN charter

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Vladimir Putin

Moscow, April 16 : Further actions violating the UN charter such as the recent US-led strikes on Syria will result in chaos in international relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over phone on Sunday.

The two leaders condemned Saturday’s airstrikes by the US and its allies on Syria and agreed that it would hinder the process of a political settlement in the war-torn country, according to a Kremlin statement, Xinhua news agency reported.

“It was stated that this illegal action seriously damages the prospects for a political settlement in Syria. Putin in particular stressed that if such actions, carried out in violation of the UN Charter, continue, it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” the statement read.

The US, together with Britain and France, launched missile strikes on Syria on Saturday, saying that it was in response to an alleged chemical weapon attack by the Syrian military. The Syrian government has categorically denied the accusation.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the same day held an emergency meeting over the missile attack at Russia’s request but failed to approve a resolution condemning the bombardment.

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