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Turkey FM heads to Doha as UN 'alarmed' by Gulf crisis

© AFP/File / by David Harding | Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks at a news conference in Ankara, on June 5, 2017

DOHA (AFP) - 

The search for a diplomatic solution to the Gulf crisis intensified Wednesday as Turkey's top diplomat headed to Qatar while the UN voiced fears over growing humanitarian concerns in the region.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, foreign minister of one of Qatar's strongest allies, is expected to hold talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, on a mission which could also see him travel to regional powerbroker Saudi Arabia.

"Saudi Arabia has the potential and capability to solve this crisis as a wise state and big brother of the region and also as a major actor," Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Wednesday.

"We aim to involve all actors in this process."

Riyadh is one of several countries which has imposed a political and economic "blockade" on Qatar, in protest at Doha's support for Islamist extremist groups as well as over its ties to Shiite Iran.

The move has been backed by nations including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt and others.

Qatar strongly denies the charges and claims neighbouring countries are trying to interfere with its foreign policy.

Before heading to Doha, Cavusoglu said that "if the programme allows I will also visit Saudi Arabia", in quotes reported by the Anadolu news agency.

"It is very useful to take into account the opinions and suggestions of Saudi Arabia."

He added that the situation "was causing great discomfort for everybody" especially during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- who has described the decision by Gulf states to cut political and economic ties with Qatar as "inhumane" -- is expected to hold phone talks with US President Donald Trump in the coming days.

In addition, the Turkish president's spokesman said a trilateral meeting between Ankara, Paris and Doha was planned.

The planned talks follow discussions on Tuesday between Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

- UN 'alarmed' -

In Geneva, concern surrounding the humanitarian situation grew Wednesday, with the intervention of the UN human rights chief.

"I am alarmed about the possible impact on many people's human rights in the wake of the decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar," said Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, in his first comments on the crisis.

"It is becoming clear that the measures being adopted are overly broad in scope and implementation," he added.

The decision to isolate Qatar had led to fears that thousands of families in the Gulf would be split apart.

As well as economic and political ties, the Gulf states also ordered Qataris out within 14 days as well as calling home their own citizens.

Amnesty International has warned of "heartbreak and fear" being suffered by ordinary people in the region.

It also accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of "toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents".

Bahrain and the UAE have also banned expressions of sympathy for Qatar.

Manama announced on Wednesday that it had detained a citizen for sympathising with Qatar on social media.

There have also been fears of food shortages in Qatar -- so far not realised -- and a disruption of imports needed for a number of capital projects in the gas-rich emirate.

Qatar is receiving food deliveries from Turkey, Iran and Morocco among others.

The 2022 World Cup host is also in the middle of building huge capital projects worth an estimated $200 billion-plus, many of which rely on suppliers in the region.

Doha-based airline Qatar Airways has been banned from using the airspace of neighbouring countries since measures were announced on June 5.

However, the carrier said services were largely unaffected by the decision in a statement Wednesday.

"Qatar Airways' global operations continue to run smoothly, with the vast majority of our network unaffected by the current circumstances," said chief executive Akbar Al-Baker.

Although the crisis remains a diplomatic one, there have been some fears voiced it could end in a military solution.

Also on Wednesday, Qatar announced it was withdrawing its troops from the Djibouti-Eritrea border.

by David Harding

© 2017 AFP