Trump says Qatar row shows his Middle East trip 'paying off'
U.S. President Donald Trump, wading into a deep rift among Arab states, said on Tuesday his trip to the Middle East was "already paying off", as governments there took a hard new line in accusing Qatar of funding militant groups, Reuters reported.
The campaign to isolate Qatar was disrupting trade in commodities from crude oil to metals and food, and deepening fears of a possible shock to the global gas market, where the tiny Gulf state is a major player.
Trump's blunt remarks cast the anti-Islamist speech he gave at a Riyadh summit in May as the inspiration for a decision by Arab powers to sever ties and transport links to Qatar in protest at what they say is its support for terrorism.
"So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!" Trump said on Twitter.
In fact, U.S. officials were blindsided by Saudi Arabia's decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar in a coordinated move with Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), current and former officials in Washington told Reuters.
Trump's comments on the rift between Qatar and other Arab nations over its alleged support for Iran and Islamist groups came as the leader of Kuwait traveled to Saudi Arabia to try to mediate.
He said, in apparent reference to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, that leaders he met on his trip had warned him Qatar was funding "radical ideology" after he had demanded they take action to stop financing militants.
Qatar vehemently denies the accusations against it.
U.S. officials said on Monday the United States would quietly try to calm the waters between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, saying that Qatar was too important to U.S. military and diplomatic interests to be isolated.
Some 8,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed at al Udeid in Qatar, the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East and a staging ground for U.S.-led strikes on the Islamic State militant group that has seized parts of Syria and Iraq.
U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told a Senate committee on Tuesday there was no threat to the base and that U.S. operations continued without interruption.
There are also deep financial and business links between the two countries based on Qatar's leading role as a gas producer.
Ordinary Qataris crowded into supermarkets to stock up on goods, fearing shortages.
Maersk MAERSKb.CO, the world's biggest container shipping line, said it was unable to transport goods in or out of Qatar because it could not take them through the UAE port of Jebel Ali.