Qatar's praise for Iran turns Arab League summit into shouting match


Qatar has used $38bn (£29bn) to support its economy during a dispute with other Arab states, a rating agency says.

The small Gulf country has dug its heels in, and looked to Saudi rival Iran, Turkey and Oman for new trade routes.

Qatar's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan Bin Saad Al-Muraikhi triggered the provocation by justifying his country's relations with Iran, saying it is a "decent country'".

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and severed air, land and sea links with it after accusing it of backing extremist groups.

The showdown worsened further as Muraikhi pointed out that Saudi Arabia was looking to topple Qatar's ruler and replace him with Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani; the only Qatari official who has met with Riyadh since the beginning of the diplomatic spat.

The four boycotting countries later demanded that Doha downgrade its ties with Iran even as Doha had already recalled its ambassador.

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Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and said that they were meant to force the country to surrender its sovereignty.

Qatar recalled its ambassador to Tehran in January previous year after Saudi Arabia cut ties with the Islamic Republic, following angry protests held outside its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad against the kingdom's execution of senior Shiite cleric Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr. It has also allowed Qatar's national carrier to use its airspace.

Saudi Arabia hit back through the voice its Arab League envoy, Ahmed al-Qattan, who said "Congratulations to Iran and soon, God willing, you will regret it", MEMO reports. "If the Qatari brothers think that if the rapprochement with Iran would serve their interests, they are carrying out matters in a wrong way and they will be accountable for that", he said.

UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the Gulf crisis continued "due to Qatar's unwillingness for peace".

"Their direction needs to change and we will continue our policies until Qatar changes its policies of aggression against the four boycotting countries and as long as Doha supports and funds terrorism and intervenes in the Middle East countries' internal affairs", Gargash said. The dispute is based on claims that Qatar has been supporting terrorism and Iran - the region's foe, as well as Islamists.

A heated exchange of words, which erupted on live TV, is the latest chapter in the Gulf crisis, now in its fourth month.