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Trump Calls For Arab Unity After Seeming To Back Split With Qatar

U.S. President Donald Trump (left) meets with Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in Riyadh last month.

U.S. President Donald Trump has appeared to change course, urging Saudi King Salman to work for Arab unity after having appeared to side with the Saudis and other Arab states in a dispute with Qatar.

Trump started out the day hailing the kingdom's move with several other Arab states to isolate Qatar on June 5 by cutting off diplomatic and trade relations, saying the boycott showed his advice to Riyadh on a visit last month was "already paying off" as the Arab states were taking a "hard line" against the financing of terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other states which cut off Qatar say Doha's policies have supported the funding of terrorism as well as "extremist" groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Shi'ite rebel groups fomenting unrest in the region that are backed by Iran.

But Trump in his evening conversation with Salman on June 6 argued against isolating Doha, saying that reestablishing unity on the Gulf Cooperation Council, where Qatar is a member, will be "critical to defeating terrorism and promoting regional stability."

Besides Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Gulf Council includes the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which have sided with the Saudis in the dispute, as well as Oman and Kuwait, which did not join the boycott of Qatar.

The White House said Trump and Salman also discussed how to prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and eliminate "the promotion of extremism by any nation in the region."

A State Department official told AP earlier in the day that despite the presence of 8,000 U.S. troops in Qatar, Washington wouldn't try to mediate the dispute because it is better for countries in the region to resolve the conflict among themselves. The official noted that both Kuwait and Turkey have offered to mediate.

The U.S. State Department said Qatar had already made progress in closing avenues for financing for terrorist groups within its borders, but has more work to do.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on June 6 that Qatar needed to take several steps, including ending its support of the Palestinian militant group Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, to restore ties with the Arab states.

"We've decided to take steps to make clear that enough is enough," Adel al-Jubeir told journalists in Paris. He said the "fairly large cost" on Qatar's economy from the cutoff of food supplies, air traffic and other trade would convince it to change its policies.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters