June 14, 2017 / 8:45 AM / 2 months ago

Qatar withdraws troops from Djibouti-Eritrea border mission

DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar said on Wednesday it had withdrawn its peacekeeping troops from the disputed frontier between Djibouti and Eritrea, after the two East African countries sided with Saudi Arabia and its allies in their standoff with Qatar.

Qatar's Foreign Ministry did not give a reason for the move but it comes as Doha faces a diplomatic crisis with some of its Arab neighbours. They cut ties a week ago, accusing Qatar of backing Islamists and Iran, something Doha strongly denies.

"Qatar has been an impartial diplomatic mediator in resolving crises and disputes between brotherly and friendly countries and will continue to be a major player in the international community," the ministry said in a statement.

It did not specify the number of troops affected but said it had informed Djibouti's government of the withdrawal.

According to a U.N. monitoring group, Qatar had said around 200 troops were stationed there.

Qatar, which has had close ties with Eritrea, deployed a small contingent of peacekeepers along the border between the Horn of Africa neighbours in 2010 after clashes broke out over disputed territory in June 2008.

It also helped mediate a peace deal.

Djibouti downgraded ties with Qatar last week, saying it was acting in "solidarity with the international coalition combating terrorism and extremist violence, as well as with the Gulf and Arab countries".

Eritrea's Information Ministry said on Monday the decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to sever ties was a move "in the right direction".

It is the second time that Qatari troops have come home since the rift among Gulf states began. A Qatari contingent stationed in Saudi Arabia as part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen returned last week.

The forces had been stationed in the south of the kingdom to reinforce Saudi defences against Houthi attacks.

Saudi Arabia had said Doha was expelled from the coalition set up in 2015 to fight the Houthi group that controls much of northern Yemen.

Reporting by John Davison in Doha and Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa; Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Catherine Evans

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