A Saudi prince allegedly ridiculed the kingdom’s Gulf neighbour Qatar, describing the country as “only 300 people and a television channel”.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported unnamed sources who claimed to have overheard the comment being made by Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, the influential former US diplomat who is leading Saudi-US joint efforts to depose of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar support toppling the Assad regime but are at odds over who should replace it.
Saudi Arabia has been a vocal critic of Qatar’s role in arming rebel groups in Syria, alleging the weapons have ended up in the hands of Islamist militants.
In an attempt to downplay Qatar’s increasing power in the region Prince Bandar said the Gulf state "is only 300 people. And a television channel, and this is not a country", a source familiar with the exchange told the WSJ.
The report sparked fury on Twitter, with Qataris describing the comment as “insulting".
Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled Al Attiyah retaliated with his own Twitter comment, saying each Qatari was worth a country and that his nation taught children to respect and appreciate each other.
Academics and journalists criticised the prince’s comment as "an abuse of the State of Qatar and its people".