Kuwait's emir says Gulf crisis not 'tolerable'

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah gives first public address since being admitted to hospital, saying Gulf dispute has weakened the region.

KUWAIT CITY - Kuwait's 90-year-old ruler opened the country's parliament on Tuesday with a call to fellow Gulf Arab states to end a row that has shattered regional unity, in his first public address since being hospitalised last month in the United States.

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who has ruled the OPEC oil producer since 2006, has been trying to mediate in the dispute that has seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain impose a boycott of Qatar since mid-2017.

"It is neither acceptable nor tolerable for the dispute between our brothers in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council to continue," he said, standing to address lawmakers from a podium in a speech at the annual opening of Kuwait's National Assembly.

Sheikh Sabah, who has been acting as a mediator to resolve the dispute, said the "row has weakened our capabilities and threatened our achievements", calling for a negotiated solution to end the rift that fractured the 38-year-old Gulf Cooperation Council that also includes Oman.

The emir called for national unity in the face of regional developments and protests in several Arab countries.

He also hit out at the misuse of social media, saying it has created divisions in society. In Kuwait, dozens of online activists have been sentenced to various jail terms, mainly for criticising the emir.

Sheikh Sabah returned to Kuwait on Oct. 16 after medical treatment in the United States. State media said he suffered an unidentified health setback in August before travelling to the United States to meet President Donald Trump. The meeting was cancelled after he was admitted to hospital.

The United States sees the protracted dispute in the Gulf as a threat to efforts to contain Iran and has pushed for a united Gulf front.

Riyadh and its Sunni Muslim allies accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and cozying up to regional foe Iran. Doha denies the charge and says the embargo aims to impinge on its sovereignty.