France Seeks End to Saudi-Bloc Measures That Have Split Families

Jul 15, 2017 9:22 am ET

(Bloomberg) -- France is seeking an end to the isolation of Qatar that has separated families across the region amid a spat between a Saudi-led group of nations and their gas-rich neighbor.

France is calling to “lift the siege” and end “the efforts that have led to the interruption of relations between different members of families that have been harmed as a result,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a joint press conference in Doha with his Qatari counterpart. “We are looking forward to concrete measures that are going to lead to the de-escalation of the situation, because this crisis isn’t going to benefit any of the parties.”

The French minister is the third senior western official to visit Doha over the past week. U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met with his counterpart and the emir, and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came twice as part of a shuttle diplomacy that included meetings in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in an effort to resolve the crisis.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade links with Qatar over a month ago. They accuse the gas-rich state of supporting terrorism and meddling in the region’s internal affairs -- charges it has denied. The countries say a pact the Gulf nation signed with the U.S. last week to disable the flow of money to terrorist groups isn’t enough to end the rift, and insisted their demands that Qatar change its policies be met in full.

Read More: Why the Qatar Crisis Defies Rapid Resolution: QuickTake Q&A

Tillerson said that taking “some of these issues off the table” could create an opening to more meaningful talks between the Gulf neighbors, but “the final and ultimate resolution may take quite a while.”

The standoff has taken a toll on Qatar’s economy. Food prices rose at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in June, the fasted pace since 2015, and ratings agencies have downgraded the nation’s credit worthiness. While the “impact seems manageable,” non-oil economic growth will likely slow to below 4 percent this year from 5.6 percent in 2016, according to Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

--With assistance from Dana Khraiche

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.