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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Kuwait envoys deliver letters to UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Egypt over Qatar crisis

Kuwait’s foreign minister and minister of state for cabinet affairs meet Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to discuss the dispute

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai receives a letter on the Qatar crisis from Kuwait's first deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled Al Sabah with Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, looking on. Courtesy Kuwaiti News Agency
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai receives a letter on the Qatar crisis from Kuwait's first deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled Al Sabah with Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, looking on. Courtesy Kuwaiti News Agency

A Kuwaiti delegation of high-ranking royal family members has been sent across the region to deliver letters written by Kuwait’s ruler in the latest bid to end the Qatar crisis.

Kuwait’s foreign minister, Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled and Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, minister of state for cabinet affairs, on Tuesday met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to discuss the regional developments in bringing an end to the dispute.

The envoys delivered a letter addressed to the UAE President, Sheikh Khalifa from Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah, who is the chief mediator in the crisis.

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Also on Tuesday, the Kuwaiti delegation delivered a letter to Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman, the Kuwaiti state news agency, Kuna, reported.

The same officials met with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh on Monday to try and facilitate a "direct dialogue" between Qatar and the quartet of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, Kuna said.

They also travelled to Egypt on Monday where they met with president Abdul Fattah El Sisi.

The four countries have been boycotting Qatar for more than two months over Doha’s links to extremist groups. They have severed diplomatic ties and cut off trade and travel links.

Several high-ranking officials have attempted to resolve the dispute, including Sheikh Sabah, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

However, a source at Kuwait's Diwan Al Amiri told The National that the latest effort is different in that it is an attempt to establish direct dialogue between the two sides since the row erupted on June 5.

The letters are looking to get a clear statement about what demands the boycotting states are unwilling to compromise on and what Qatar must do to end the rift.

The response is expected to be sent to the Qatari leadership to assess their willingness to negotiate on the demands.

Both sides of the conflict have said they are willing to engage in a dialogue. The quartet set a list of 13 demands that Qatar had to meet before any attempts to resolve dispute could begin.

The demands said Doha must stop funding terrorism and reduce its ties with Iran. they also ordered the shut down of Al Jazeera and that all Turkish troops must leave the country. Qatari officials have rejected the demands, saying they go against international law and undermine their country's sovereignty.

A sticking point in any attempt to start talks between the two sides, is Qatar's refusal to negotiate before the boycott is lifted.

“I think we're seeing a ramping up in mediation efforts, as both sides have become increasingly entrenched,” said London School of Economics researcher, Courtney Freer.

A new row between Qatar and Saudi Arabia over Hajj may have spurred greater efforts to mediate the dispute, now in its third month, she said.

Furthermore, Ms freer said that if anyone has the ability to mediate the crisis it would be Kuwait, especially considering their track record in resolving regional issues.

“Kuwaiti efforts at mediation successfully ended the last Gulf standoff in 2014, so we can only hope that the Kuwaiti envoys, with support from the U.S. State Department, are able to broker an agreement in this case,” she said.

The renewed Kuwaiti efforts came as the US envoys in the Qatar crisis, retired general Anthony Zinni, and deputy assistant secretary of state for Arabian Gulf affairs Timothy Lenderking, arrived in Kuwait on Monday to apply “constant pressure on the ground.”

The two men will also travel to Jeddah, Doha, Manama, Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Cairo.

The US is a key economic and military partner with all the countries involved and Qatar is home to the largest American military base in the region.

Donald Trump backed the quartet in the dispute with Qatar but the state department has attempted to tread a more neutral line.

“President Trump's statements in the past have contradicted statements made by the secretary of state, so, if the president weighs in on the issue saying something different, that could be problematic.”

The dispute is the worst diplomatic crisis since the formation of the GCC 35 years ago.