A GROUP of Arab countries have extended a deadline for Qatar to respond to their list of demands by 48 hours, in an ongoing diplomatic crisis that has erupted in the Gulf.

Kuwait’s emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, requested the delay as part of his efforts to mediate the dispute.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut off ties with the gulf state,– which is to be the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup – restricting access to their airspace and ports and sealing Qatar’s only land border, which it shares with Saudi Arabia.

Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, has travelled to Kuwait City, carrying a handwritten note from his country’s ruler for 88-year-old Kuwaiti Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah, according to the state-run KUNA news agency.

There is no immediate word on what the letter said, though Sheikh Sabah is trying to mediate in the spiralling crisis.

The four Arab states had issued Qatar with a 13-point list of demands to comply with in order to end the stand-off on June 22 and gave the gas-rich state 10 days to adhere to them.

The joint statement by the four Arab countries said they expected Qatar to respond to their demands later yesterday after their latest announcement. The new deadline will expire late today or early tomorrow.

Foreign ministers of the four Arab countries will meet in Cairo tomorrow in order to discuss their next move in a diplomatic row that has cast a shadow over the lives of Qatari expatriates living in the blockading countries.

The statement said: “The response of the four states will then be sent following the study of the Qatari government’s response and assessment of its response to the whole demands.”

In a bid to cool tensions, US President Donald Trump spoke with Qatar’s emir Al Thani, as well as King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.

The White House said Trump had urged unity and reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology.

A separate statement carried on the official Qatar News Agency said the emir’s discussion with Trump touched on the need to fight terrorism and extremism in all its forms, and was a chance for the countries to review their bilateral strategic relations.

Qatar, like the countries lined up against it, is a US ally. It hosts some 10,000 US troops at the huge Al Udeid Air Base. The desert facility is home to the forward headquarters of the US Central Command and has been a key staging ground for the campaign against Daesh and, previously, the war in Afghanistan.

The four Sunni countries cut ties with Qatar over allegations it supports extremists and over the close links it maintains with Shia power Iran.

Qatar, however, has long denied sponsoring extremist groups and maintains ties with Iran as it shares a massive offshore natural gas field with the republic.

Qatar’s defence minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah told Sky News: “Qatar is not an easy country to be swallowed by anyone. We are ready. We stand ready to defend our country. I hope that we don’t come to a stage where a military intervention is made.”

Qatar’s main QE stock index lost more than three per cent when it reopened on Sunday following a week-long break for the Eid al-Fitr holiday – its first session since the demands were laid out. It eventually recovered some of its losses later in the trading session to close down 2.3 per cent at 8,822.15.

Qatari supermarkets saw panic-buying when the four countries initially cut ties.

But the capital, Doha, was again largely calm on Sunday as residents waited to see how the crisis would play out.

Sheikh Al Thani showed no signs of backing down during a press briefing in Rome on Saturday, saying the demands were never meant to be acceptable for Qatar and that his country “is prepared to face whatever consequences”.

He met Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano, who gave his backing to ongoing mediation efforts led by Kuwait.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also tried to resolve the dispute, with the US last week urging Saudi Arabia and its allies to stay “open to negotiation” with Qatar.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has separately spoken with the leaders of Qatar and Bahrain, urging direct dialogue among all the states involved, according to statements released by the Kremlin on Saturday.