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France calls for lifting of sanctions on Qatar citizens

French Foreign Minister says his country is "very concerned by the sudden deterioration" of the situation in the Gulf.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian

France has called for a swift lifting of sanctions that target Qatari nationals in an effort to ease a month-long rift between the Gulf country and a Saudi Arabia-led group.

In his visit to the Qatari capital Doha on Saturday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said his country is "very concerned by the sudden deterioration" of the situation in the region.

"France calls for the lifting, as soon as possible, of the measures that affect the populations in particular, bi-national families that have been separated or students," Le Drian told reporters in Doha, after he met his counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.


The Gulf crisis: A coming out of small states


Le Drian also met with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, following the steps of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was in the Gulf this week to help to find a solution the regional impasse.

He is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia later on Saturday and will visit Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates on Sunday.

"France should be a facilitator in the mediation" led by Kuwait, Le Drian told reporters.

Kuwait is trying to mediate the dispute.

"France is talking to all these countries to help in the search for a solution," he said, calling for "dialogue and calm" between the Arab states concerned.

Le Drian also said France counted on "reinforcing cooperation with Qatar in the fight against terrorism, particularly in combating terrorism financing".

'Political, intellectual terrorism'

For his part, Sheikh Mohammed said that the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and its allies against Qatar are disrupting the regional effort to combat terrorism.

"Combating terrorism also cannot be through practising political and intellectual terrorism against a state," Sheikh Mohammed said.

Aside from France, officials from Britain and Germany also visited the region in recent weeks. 

In an interview, Samer Shehata of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, however, said that while France's voice lends more support for Qatar, it does "not have a tremendous amount" of influence in the crisis. 

"The United States has the most pressure it can potentially exert on the parties involved, particularly the Saudis and the Emiratis," he said.  

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions on Qatar on June 5, accusing it of financing armed groups and allying with Saudi Arabia's regional ally, Iran -- allegations that Doha denied.

On June 22, the Saudi-led group issued a 13-point list of demands, including the shutdown of Al Jazeera, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country, as a prerequisite to lift the sanctions.

Doha rejected the demands and the countries now consider the list "null and void".

On July 11, US and Qatar signed an agreement to help combat "terrorism financing". But the Saudi-led group called it "insufficient".


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