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Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kicked off an official trip to the GCC yesterday with a visit to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

He first went to Jeddah, where he met King Salman and new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the ongoing GCC crisis.

Prior to leaving Istanbul, Erdogan stressed it ���is not in anyone’s interests” to continue the dispute.

WAM

Flags of the boycotting nations (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt).

According to Al Jazeera, he also blamed unnamed “enemies” for seeking to “fire up tensions between brothers” in the region.

Erdogan has proven to be a key ally to Qatar since the country’s neighbors closed their borders and airspace, and is expected in Doha today.

He is the fifth world leader to visit the region to help resolve the crisis. It began nearly two months ago after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE closed their borders and airspace to Qatar for political reasons.

International support

So far, Turkey, France, the US and mediator Kuwait have all urged the Gulf states to end their fight with Qatar.

Just yesterday, the UK’s foreign secretary added his voice.

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs/Flickr

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson

In a statement, Boris Johnson welcomed recent changes Qatar made to its terrorism laws, adding:

“We hope in turn Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain respond by taking steps toward lifting the embargo. This will allow substantive discussions on remaining differences to begin.”

However, the boycotting countries continue to pressure Qatar to meet several demands.

In response to a speech the Emir made over the weekend, a senior UAE official welcomed Sheikh Tamim’s call for dialogue.

But he added that Qatar must make certain changes before talks can start.

That said, the UAE’s telecom providers did unblock Qatar-owned BeinSports this week, raising hopes that resolution is near.

Turkey’s help

When he visits Qatar today, Erdogan is expected to receive a warm welcome.

Turkey has supported Qatar over the past several weeks with food imports and by speeding up the deployment of Turkish troops to the country, as per a 2014 military agreement.

Ministry of Defense

Turkish troops arrive in Qatar

This will reportedly be Erdogan’s first face-to-face meeting with the Emir since the dispute began last month.

Thoughts?

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Sheikh Tamim addresses the nation about the Gulf dispute.

Mutual respect for Qatar’s sovereignty and respectful dialogue are critical if the Gulf states wish to resolve the ongoing crisis, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said in a public address broadcast on television tonight.

In his first public remarks since the Gulf dispute erupted in early June, the Emir called the blockade “collective punishment” and an assault on free speech.

“We should not burden civilians with political differences,” he said, adding that world has chosen to stand with Qatar by not backing the boycotting nations.

Pivoting away from his neighbors, he also thanked Qatar residents for becoming de facto spokespeople for the country.

Additionally, Sheikh Tamim urged them to use the crisis as an opportunity and a wakeup call.

“We are opening our economy to initiatives, investments, production of food, medicine and ultimately to diversify our sources of income,” the Emir said.

“We are all passing through this test with honor and dignity, we need diligence, creativity, independent thinking and self-reliance for the future,” he added.

Pressure is off

The Emir’s speech comes a day after the government confirmed the UAE was involved in a cyberattack that kicked off the Gulf dispute.

Following the hacking of QNA, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar.

The quartet hoped the move would pressure Qatar to accept 13 demands that included closing Al Jazeera and a Turkish military base in Doha, among other things.

Osama Saeed/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

But Qatar has refused to acquiesce.

Failing to garner international support and unwilling or unable to escalate the dispute further, the countries have now scaled back their demands.

In what Qatar’s ambassador to the UN called a “face-saving measure,” the quartet is now asking the country to agree to six general principles about combatting terrorism.

To that, the Emir said tonight that Qatar is “fighting terrorism relentlessly and without compromises, and the international community recognizes this.”

He added, “We are open to dialogue to find solutions to lingering problems, within the framework of respect for the sovereignty.”

He concluded with a call for Arab unity and expressed solidarity with Palestinians who have recently seen the closure of Al Aqsa mosque.

Here are some of the key points from Sheikh Tamim’s address:

GCO

Emir’s address on the Gulf dispute

Thoughts?

Ray Toh/Flickr

Ministry of Interior headquarters

The cyber attack on Qatar that kicked off the Gulf dispute had been carefully planned and executed over a several-week period, officials have announced.

On May 23, Qatar News Agency (QNA) and its social media sites posted offensive remarks attributed to the Emir, infuriating the country’s neighbors.

But QNA had actually been infiltrated more than a month before the attack, authorities said during a press conference yesterday.

Officials stopped short of naming who it held responsible for the hacking, mostly referring to IP addresses from “siege countries.”

But they did say that the attack “originated in the UAE.”

And Al Jazeera quotes the MOI’s Capt. Othman Salem al-Hamoud as saying the hack “was so professional that it had to have ‘state resources’ behind it.”

Days ago, US intelligence officials also pointed the finger at the UAE, though the country itself has denied any involvement.

What happened

A hacker first gained access to QNA’s website on April 19, officials said.

He then “started increasing his control of the network by deploying more sophisticated malware programs.”

On April 28, he collected addresses, passwords and emails of all employees.

And on May 20, he carried out a final check of “malicious programs, confirming effectiveness in preparation for an attack,” MOI officials said.

The hackers “used innovative methods to hide their identity.”

But “technical evidence” confirmed interactions with people whose IP addresses originated from “siege countries,” they added.

Next steps

When the cyberattack took place, Qatari officials immediately dismissed the posted remarks as false.

But neighboring countries doubted that Qatar had been hacked in the first place and took the statements at face value.

The fallout led to Al Jazeera being blocked in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

And less than two weeks later, those countries, as well as Bahrain and Egypt, announced a boycott against Qatar.

The move was to pressure Qatar to fall into line with GCC politics. But the country has so far refused to do so.

The quartet has since toned down its demands, and it remains unclear what will happen next in terms of the Gulf dispute.

As far the attack, Qatar said it will move ahead with legal measures to prosecute the perpetrators of the crime.

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