The Latest: S&P lowers Qatar's credit rating over dispute

The latest on the Gulf crisis after Saudi Arabia and other nations cut ties to Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism (all times local):

1:45 a.m.

The international agency Standard and Poors has downgraded Qatar's credit rating because of the Gulf country's fight with Saudi Arabia and other regional nations.

S&P said in a statement Wednesday that those countries' severing of diplomatic and business links with Qatar "will exacerbate Qatar's external vulnerabilities and could put pressure on economic growth and fiscal" stability.

The agency says it has lowered the rating on Qatar's long-term debt to AA-minus from AA and has put the country on credit watch with "negative implications."


9:40 p.m.

Despite the objection of opposition parties, the Turkish Parliament has approved two military cooperation deals with Qatar in an apparent show of support for the Gulf country in its feud with Saudi Arabia and other regional nations.

Legislators in the ruling party-dominated parliament on Wednesday approved allowing the deployment of Turkish troops to a Turkish base in Qatar as well as a deal for the training of gendarmerie force personnel.

The legislation was moved up parliament's agenda and rushed through the assembly a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced support for Qatar in the feud and criticized other Gulf countries' moves to isolate Doha.

Turkey and Qatar have developed close ties over the years and reached agreement in 2014 to set up a Turkish military base in the tiny Gulf nation.

Government officials said Wednesday the military would decide on the number of Turkish troops that would be deployed in Qatar and the length of their stay. Previously, officials had said as many as 3,000 soldiers could be sent.


9:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump has spoken by phone with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani.

That's according to a U.S. official who wasn't authorized to discuss the call publicly and requested anonymity.

Details about what was discussed on the call weren't immediately available. But the call is the first known contact between Trump and Qatar's ruler since a diplomatic crisis broke out in the Persian Gulf earlier this week. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Arab nations cut off relations with Qatar after accusing it of supporting terrorism.

The call suggests Trump may be playing a significant mediating role in the crisis. On Tuesday, Trump spoke with Saudi Arabia's King Salman. The White House says Trump emphasized the need for unity among Persian Gulf countries.

— Josh Lederman


8:40 p.m.

Kuwait's emir has met two top officials in the United Arab Emirates to try and mediate a growing diplomatic crisis over Qatar.

Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah arrived in Dubai on Wednesday. His visit comes after he traveled to Saudi Arabia earlier to meet with King Salman.

The state-run WAM news agency said Sheikh Sabah met with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as prime minister and vice president of the UAE.

The WAM report gave no details about their discussions.


8:30 p.m.

The West African nation of Senegal is recalling its ambassador from Qatar, joining several Middle Eastern countries that have cut diplomatic ties in recent days.

The announcement was made public Wednesday, a day after a similar decision was announced by the neighboring country of Mauritania to the north.

A statement from the Senegalese Foreign Affairs Ministry said it was acting in solidarity with other countries in the Gulf who have cut diplomatic relations with Qatar because of the country's alleged funding of terrorist groups and friendly ties with Iran.

Karim Wade, the son of Senegal's former president, has been living in Qatar for nearly a year since his release from prison where he served time for corruption charges.


8:15 p.m.

The top lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives is backing President Donald Trump's stance on Qatar — after Trump sided with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations against the small, gas-rich emirate.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan tells reporters in Washington Wednesday that the U.S. has an important military base in Qatar. But, Ryan says: "I do think that we should put some pressure on Qatar" because "I think they can improve their foreign policy — let's just put it that way."

Trump has posted tweets that appear to endorse the Saudi claim that Qatar funds terrorist groups.

That's a serious allegation against a strategic U.S. partner that hosts thousands of American troops. And, the president's critique pulled the U.S. into a conflict that American diplomats had wanted to avoid.


8 p.m.

Turkey's parliament has begun debating legislation for increased military cooperation with Qatar in an apparent move to support the country amid its dispute with Saudi Arabia and other regional nations.

Separate bills for the training of military personnel and the deployment of troops to a Turkish military base in Qatar were moved up parliament's agenda on Wednesday, a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced support for Qatar and criticized other countries' moves to isolate it.

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen have accused Qatar of harboring extremists and backing Riyadh's regional rival, Iran. Qatar has denied the allegations.

Turkey and Qatar have developed close ties over the years and reached an agreement in 2014 for the construction of a Turkish base there.

Turkish officials have said as many as 3,000 Turkish troops could be deployed in Qatar


7:15 p.m.

Germany's Foreign Ministry says it is trying to understand the U.S. position on the Gulf crisis, after Saudi Arabia and other nations cut ties to Qatar.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Middle Eastern leaders complained about Qatar when he demanded an end to support for radical ideology that encourages terrorism. Trump also appeared to suggest the decision to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar, home to a large U.S. military base, was understandable.

In Berlin, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Wednesday that while statements from the U.S. State Department were in line with Germany's position, "I can indeed see differences in some 140 character comments by the American president."

Schaefer told reporters German diplomats were in touch with State Department and National Security Council officials to clarify the U.S. stance.


5:45 p.m.

A top Emirati diplomat has told The Associated Press that the United Arab Emirates was not behind the alleged hack that targeted the state-run Qatar News Agency.

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash also acknowledged Wednesday that leaked emails published by news outlets from its ambassador to the United States were true.

The news agency hack in late May sparked the recent tensions in the Gulf that spilled into the open Monday when Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut off diplomatic ties to Qatar and moved to isolate it from the larger world.

Gargash told the AP that leaked emails from Emirati Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba in Washington showed "the UAE's real concerns and what we really say in our private emails is what we say publicly."


5:25 p.m.

A top Emirati diplomat has called U.S. President Donald Trump's tweets on Qatar "very courageous and extraordinary."

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told The Associated Press on Wednesday in a rare interview that Trump was "very frank."

Gargash said: "What he said in public, in tweets, is what is being said privately by American politicians, by European politicians, by Arab politicians."

He added: "I hope that this is a signal also to Qatar that the period of duplicity, of doing something publicly and doing something else privately, are over."

Trump made a series of tweets Tuesday calling into question his commitment to the peninsular nation after earlier telling Qatar's ruling emir that "we've been friends now for a long time."


3:10 p.m.

France is calling on Qatar to answer its Gulf neighbors' questions in order to find a solution to the current diplomatic crisis.

French government spokesman Christophe Castaner says Wednesday in a news conference following the weekly Cabinet meeting that "Qatar must ensure transparency."

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday. They accuse Qatar of funding terror groups and having a worryingly close relationship with Iran, a nation with which it shares its vast offshore natural gas field.

Castaner said France doesn't intent to take sides. He said "it's important for France to remain in partnership with all these countries", especially with diplomatic, financial and economic interests at stake.


2:55 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister is calling for Qatar to end "its support for extremist groups" and its "interference" in other countries in the region.

Adel al-Jubeir spoke Wednesday after meeting his German counterpart in Berlin. He said he hopes that "Qatar responds to our call to end its support for extremist groups and its interference in the affairs of the countries in the region." He called for Qatar "to become a neighbor and partner as we were accustomed to it."

Saudi Arabia and others cut ties with Qatar this week, accusing it of supporting extremists. Qatar denies the allegations.


2:50 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister says it's with "great pain" his country and others took measures against Qatar and insists the "crisis" with the small Gulf nation goes back years.

Adel al-Jubeir says he hopes Qatar can respond to demands put forward by his country, Bahrain, The United Arab Emirates and Egypt to "restore relations to how they were in the past." He said in Berlin he is seeking a response "soon."

Al-Jubeir said that "the issue goes back many years." He added that there was an "understanding" that Qatar would "take measures in relation to supporting some organizations and ... some individuals," but that Qatar didn't live up to its commitments.

Saudi Arabia and others cut ties with Qatar this week, accusing it of supporting extremists. Qatar denies the allegations.


1:20 p.m.

A Hamas official says Saudi Arabia's call to Qatar to cut ties with the Palestinian group is "regrettable" and contradicts traditional Arab support for the Palestinian cause.

Hamas official Mushir al-Masri also accused Saudi Arabia on Wednesday of siding with "American and Zionist calls to put Hamas on the terrorism list."

Al-Masri's strongly worded criticism of regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia was unusual for Hamas.

Qatar has been one of the few foreign backers of internationally shunned Hamas, an Islamic militant group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries cut ties with Qatar this week, accusing it of supporting extremists. Qatar has denied the allegations.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Tuesday that Qatar must sever ties with Hamas.


12:40 p.m.

The United Arab Emirates' Justice Ministry is warning social media users that they can face prison time and fines for offering sympathy for Qatar amid a growing diplomatic crisis in the Middle East.

The ministry put out a statement on social media Wednesday saying those found guilty could face three to 15 years in prison and fines starting from 500,000 dirhams ($136,000).

The ministry quoted UAE Attorney General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi making the warning, saying it came over Qatar's "hostile and reckless policy."

While liberal compared to much of the Middle East, the UAE has tough cybercrime and slander laws under which people can be arrested, imprisoned and deported for taking photographs without the consent of those shown or being insulting.

The United Arab Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and other Arab nations severed ties with Qatar and have cut off land, sea and air access. They accuse the energy-rich Gulf nation of supporting terror groups, charges denied by Qatar.


12:30 p.m.

Mauritania has become the latest country to cut diplomatic relations with Qatar as part of a growing rift between the energy-rich Gulf nation and other Arab countries.

In a statement by the Foreign Ministry, the African country accused Qatar of having connections to terrorist organizations. It said Qatar is "promoting extremist thoughts and spreading chaos and disturbances across many of the Arab countries, resulting in big humanitarian miseries."

Qatar long has denied supporting terror groups.

Mauritania has strong military and economic ties to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which led the diplomatic spat with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and others have severed diplomatic relations and cut off air, land and sea access to Qatar, in the most serious Gulf diplomatic crisis since the 1991 war against Iraq.


12:15 p.m.

An outspoken Emirati ruling family member has raised the prospect of a change in leadership in Qatar, which is embroiled in a major diplomatic crisis with its Gulf neighbors.

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi says Qatar's citizens are "questioning if this is going to end up in seeing a change in leadership itself."

Al Qassemi, of the ruling family of the sheikhdom of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he hopes Qatar ends its "rogue, maverick" ways.

He says Qatar will need to close or limit its Al-Jazeera news network and stop funding extremists groups to end the crisis.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday.