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| 18 June, 2017

Kuwait's ruler calls for Gulf unity to heal Qatar rift

The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah attends the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 9, 2015. Image used for illustrative purpose.

The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah attends the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 9, 2015. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters/File Photo

Sheikh Sabah, a long-serving diplomat, said Gulf countries had "one destiny" because of their historical ties and cross-border family relations

DUBAI, June 18 (Reuters) - Kuwait's ruler called on Sunday for Gulf Arab states to overcome a diplomatic dispute with Qatar that has led to the worst regional split in years, saying all parties had a duty to preserve regional unity.

Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who is leading mediation efforts after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar two weeks ago, said he hoped the crisis could be solved through dialogue.

In a speech marking Ramadan, Sheikh Sabah said he hoped the remaining days of the Muslim holy month would create "the atmosphere for resolving unfortunate differences and ending the rift through dialogue and communication" in the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut diplomatic and travel ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of funding militant groups and fomenting instability, charges Doha denies. The row has blocked imports, left travellers stranded, hit the oil price and sown confusion among businesses.

Sheikh Sabah, a long-serving diplomat, said Gulf countries had "one destiny" because of their historical ties and cross-border family relations. These common interests gave Gulf states a duty to remain united, he said in the televised speech.

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He prayed for efforts "to preserve our Gulf states, their peoples and to avoid all that disrupts their strong relations and threatens their security and safety."

He also said the region and the rest of the world faced the "growing phenomenon of terrorism" and said Kuwait stood in solidarity with the international community to combat it and help eliminate its origins, without specifying.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall in Dubai and Ali Abdelaty in Cairo; Editing by Susan Fenton) ((sylvia.westall@thomsonreuters.com; Dubai Newsroom +971 56 216 6204; Reuters Messaging: sylvia.westall.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))