June 7, 2017 / 9:11 AM / 2 months ago

German minister sees danger in "Trumpification" of conflict in Gulf

BERLIN, June 7 (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed alarm about the sudden escalation of tensions in the Gulf after Saudi Arabia and other states abruptly broke off ties with Qatar, warning of the dangers of "Trumpification" of relations in the region.

"I am extremely concerned about the dramatic escalation of the situation and the consequences for the entire region," Gabriel told Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday.

Gabriel, who is due to meet Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Wednesday, said he was surprised by the intensity of the tensions erupting in the Gulf region.

"Such a Trumpification of relations with one another is particularly dangerous in a region that is already rife with crises," he told the newspaper, in an apparent reference to what critics say is the increasingly divisive rhetoric seen since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump last year.

"Qatar is apparently to be more or less completely isolated and existentially targeted," he said, adding: "A further escalation serves no one. The Middle East is a political and military powder keg."

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism and Iran, opening the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world.

The three Gulf states announced the closure of transport ties with Qatar and gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries. Qatar was also expelled from a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

Gabriel, a longtime critic of German arms sales, also criticised Trump's recent large U.S. weapons sales to other countries in the Gulf.

"The latest gigantic arms sales of the American president with the Gulf monarchies increase the risk of a new arms race spiral," he told the newspaper. "That is totally the wrong policy, and certainly not the policy of Germany."

Trump sealed a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia on his maiden foreign trip in May. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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