Arab FMs to meet in Bahrain to discuss Qatar boycott

Dubai (AFP) –


Top officials of four Arab states boycotting Qatar are scheduled to meet in the Bahraini capital Sunday, as a political crisis that has split the Gulf enters its second month.

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt will meet in Manama in a bid to persuade Qatar to "end its support for extremism and terrorism, stop meddling in the affairs of neighbouring countries and change its policies," read a statement on state news agency BNA.

On June 5, the Saudi-led bloc cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar -- the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas -- over allegations the emirate supported Islamist extremism and had close ties to Shiite Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional arch-rival.

The Saudi-led bloc recalled their ambassadors, ordered all Qataris to return home and banned Qatar from using their airspace.

Qatar has denied the allegations and accuses the bloc of imposing a "blockade" on the tiny emirate.

Qatar has also rejected the bloc's demands -- which include downgrading ties to Iran and closing both the Al-Jazeera news channel and a Turkish military base in the country -- as a violation of its sovereignty.

Bahrain's King Hamad on Saturday called for "the solidarity of all Arab countries in fighting terrorism and cutting off its financing... for the defence of our homelands" ahead of the meeting, which comes after the Saudi-led bloc held talks in Cairo earlier this month.

Kuwait is leading mediation efforts in the crisis, the worst to grip the region since the 1981 creation of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

Kuwait and Oman -- GCC members along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar -- have not joined the Qatar boycott.