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Qatar Wins 48-hour Extension of Deadline Set by Saudis, Other Arab States

By VOA News July 03, 2017

Saudi Arabia and its allies involved in a prolonged diplomatic dispute with Qatar said Monday they would extend by 48 hours a deadline for Qatar to comply with their demands.

Kuwait, which has been trying to negotiate a peaceful end to the Gulf Arab states' blockade of Qatar, asked for the deadline extension Sunday, shortly before time for Qatar's reply to the Saudi-led coalition was due to expire.

A coordinated statement released early Monday by the state news agencies in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia confirmed the deadline had been extended until the end of Monday.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and commercial links with Qatar on June 5, accusing the government in Doha of supporting terrorism in an alliance with Iran.

Qatar has denied the accusations and said such charges are baseless. The small Gulf state's foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, has said the demands by the Saudis and their partners – including the withdrawal of Turkish troops in Qatar, closure of the Qatari-state-owned Al Jazeera news group and a downgrading of Qatar's relations with Iran – are impossible to meet without sacrificing Qatar's sovereignty.

Although al-Thani signaled the Saudis' demands were virtually certain to be rejected, Qatar has not yet formally responded to the Arab group. Kuwait's KUNA news agency and Al Jazeera said al-Thani was in Kuwait on Monday.

Egypt said on Sunday the foreign ministers from the four boycotting countries would discuss the situation with Qatar in Cairo on Wednesday.

US concerned

U.S. President Donald Trump discussed the situation by phone in separate calls Sunday with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

A White House statement said Trump addressed his concerns about the dispute, and also stressed the importance of regional unity, stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology.

The United States has supported Kuwait's attempt to mediate the Gulf Arabs' dispute. Washington has strong ties to both sides: the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is berthed in Bahrain and a land base in Qatar is the largest U.S. military facility in the region.

In addition, hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of pending arms deals between the United States and Saudi Arabia potentially could be affected by the outcome of the diplomatic dispute.

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