x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sheikh Mohammed meets French foreign minister in Abu Dhabi amid Qatar dispute 

Jean-Yves Le Drian earlier held talks with officials in both Doha and Jeddah in an effort to heal the rift between Qatar and its neighbours

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces meets with Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, at Al Shati Palace. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces meets with Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, at Al Shati Palace. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed met the French foreign minister in Abu Dhabi on Sunday as the diplomat tours the Gulf seeking a solution to the Qatar crisis.

France is looking to throw its weight behind Kuwait-led mediation between Qatar and the four Arab countries boycotting it, Jean-Yves Le Drian said before meeting the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Sheikh Mohammed and Mr Le Drian discussed regional and international issues along with enhancing cooperation when they met at Al Shati Palace.

Earlier the French foreign minister met Sheikh Sabah, emir of Kuwait and chief mediator in the crisis, after talks with officials in Doha and Jeddah in an effort to heal the rift between Gulf countries.

The crisis, now in its second month, exploded into the open when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar over accusations of supporting extremism and terrorism.

The foreign ministers of Germany and the UK, along with the US secretary of state, have all visited the Gulf in recent weeks to try and resolve the dispute.

Mr Le Drian met with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, and Adel Al Jubeir, the foreign minister, in Jeddah on Saturday.

Mr Al Jubeir said Saudi Arabia would give Mr Le Drian "comprehensive dossiers of the negative acts committed by Qatar over years", adding that a similar file was given to Mr Tillerson.

“There are basic principles that must be committed by all countries, including Qatar,” he said. “The first is not supporting terrorism and the financing of terrorism. The second is to refrain from supporting extremism and from inciting and spreading hatred.”

Mr Al Jubeir said Riyadh hoped the crisis could still be solved "within the Gulf house".

Mr Le Drian agreed that "solving this crisis should be done by the Gulf countries themselves", reiterating Paris's support for Kuwaiti mediation.

"We look for everyone's determined commitment against terrorism, its support and financing. In this perspective, it is important that GCC countries should be united, to remain a rampart against instability," he said.

Earlier, Mr Le Drian called for "dialogue and calm" between the Arab states involved in the crisis after a meeting in Doha with Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim, and foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman.

"France is very concerned by the sudden deterioration in relations between Qatar and many of its neighbours," Mr Le Drian said in Doha on Saturday. "France is talking to all these countries to help in the search for a solution."

Qatar's foreign minister welcomed France's support for mediation aimed at finding a solution "based on constructive dialogue … and respect of state sovereignty and international law".

Mr Le Drian said France counted on "reinforcing co-operation with Qatar in the fight against terrorism, particularly in combating terrorism financing".

He arrived in the region on Saturday, two days after US secretary of state Rex Tillerson ended a four-day mediation mission with no announcement of progress towards defusing the bitter dispute.

Mr Tillerson held extended meetings with officials of the four boycotting nations — Saudi foreign minister Mr Al Jubeir, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash, Bahraini foreign minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed and Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry — and the Kuwaiti minister of state for cabinet affairs Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al Mubarak.

On June 5, the four countries cut diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Doha, denied Qatar access to their airspace and ordered Qatari citizens to leave.

Last week, hours before Mr Tillerson’s arrival in Kuwait, documents were leaked showing a confidential GCC agreement which the boycotting nations accuse Qatar of breaching. The Riyadh Agreement, signed in November 2013 with a follow-up pact a year later, committed the bloc's members to cutting off funding of extremism and to non-interference in each others' domestic affairs.

The Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Sabah said that despite the bitter feelings on both sides, he remained hopeful they could be made to repair “our Gulf home”.

The quartet has said relations with Qatar would be restored only if it met the 13 demands presented to Doha on June 22. Qatar has rejected the demands, saying they undermine its sovereignty.

The foreign ministers of the boycotting countries plan to meet in Manama to decide on their next steps.