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Russia calls for dialogue in Qatar crisis after hacking claims

Mediation offer from Moscow after FBI finds Russia-based hackers to blame for sparking Qatar crisis
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (AFP)

Moscow called on Saturday for dialogue between Qatar and its neighbours in the Gulf, promising help in mediating the crisis, as Russia's foreign minister met his Qatari counterpart.

"We have observed with concern the news of this escalation," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in opening remarks at his meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Moscow.

"We cannot be happy in a situation when the relations between our partners are worsening. We are in favour of resolving any disagreements through ... dialogue."

Qatar is reaching out for support abroad as it has fallen out with its Arab neighbours, who accuse it of sponsoring extremist groups and resent its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood movement and sponsorship of the Al Jazeera news network.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties on Monday and are trying to blockade Qatar by air and sea.

Lavrov said that Russia is "ready to try to do everything in its power" to help resolve the crisis and said unity is needed to fight terrorism.

"For us, unity is clearly necessary for maximum effect on this front [against terrorism]," he said.

Qatar has denounced the allegations against it and Al Thani during his meeting with Lavrov called the measures against the country "illegal". 

Ealier this week reports suggested that Russian hackers helped to spark the crisis, but Moscow has dismissed this as a "stale claim" with "zero evidence" to support it.

An investigation by the FBI reportedly found that Russian hackers were responsible for sending out fake messages from the Qatari government, sparking the crisis which has become the region's biggest since the first Gulf War in 1990-91.

Media reports suggested the report found that the Russian government was not involved in the hacks, but that freelance hackers were paid to undertake the work on behalf of some other state or individual. Some observers have claimed privately that Saudi Arabia or the UAE may have commissioned the hackers.

The Russian intevention follows calls from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for the crisis not to disrupt action against the Islamic State (IS) group. He also criticised the blockade by Qatar's neighbours on humanitarian grounds.

"Our expectation is that these countries will immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve their grievances they have with each other," Tillerson said in a brief statement to reporters.