President Donald Trump “addressed his concerns” Sunday night about the ongoing diplomatic dispute between Qatar and four of its neighbors in phone calls with some of the involved leaders, calling for unity but emphasizing that his top concern is ending funding for terrorism.
The president spoke Sunday with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, as well as Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, according to a White House readout of the calls. In them, Trump “reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology” and also “underscored that unity in the region is critical” to combating terrorism.
On Monday morning, Trump also posted a message to social media about his call with the Saudi king.
"Spoke yesterday with the King of Saudi Arabia about peace in the Middle-East. Interesting things are happening!" he tweeted.
At least publicly, Trump has seemingly sided with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and The United Arab Emirates in their diplomatic dispute with Qatar, which centers around the latter’s alleged funding for terrorist groups, including Hamas and an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria. The Saudi, Emirati, Bahraini and Egyptian governments all announced last month that they would cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, blockading the small, peninsular nation.
The Qatari government has denied that it has funded terrorist organizations.
While Trump has largely echoed the concerns of the blockading nations, his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has called for an end to the blockade, which he said has hurt U.S. interests in the region. The U.S. military maintains a large military base in Qatar, from which it launches airstrikes against Islamic State targets.
But despite the U.S. ties to Qatar, Trump said his priority remains to curb funding for terrorism in the region.
“President Trump, nevertheless, believes that the overriding objective of his initiative is the cessation of funding for terrorism,” the White House readout said.