US me­di­a­tion in Gulf makes lit­tle progress

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

JED­DAH, Saudi Ara­bia — US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son ended talks with min­is­ters from Saudi Ara­bia and three Arab al­lies on Wed­nes­day over how to end a month­long rift with Qatar, but there was no im­me­di­ate word of any break­through.

Tiller­son re­turned to Kuwait, the me­di­a­tor be­tween the feud­ing Gulf coun­tries, with­out mak­ing any state­ment on his talks in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jed­dah. He had signed a US-Qatari ac­cord on ter­ror­ism fi­nanc­ing on Wed­nes­day, but Qatar’s op­po­nents said it fell short of al­lay­ing their con­cerns.

Any res­o­lu­tion of the im­passe must ad­dress all the key is­sues for Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates, Bahrain and Egypt, a se­nior UAE of­fi­cial said be­fore the talks in Saudi Ara­bia.

The four coun­tries im­posed sanctions on Qatar on June 5, ac­cus­ing it of fi­nanc­ing ex­trem­ist groups and al­ly­ing with their arch­foe Iran. Doha de­nies those ac­cu­sa­tions. The four states and Qatar are all US al­lies.

Tiller­son met the for­eign min­is­ters to try to end the worst dis­pute in decades among the US-al­lied Gulf Arab states. He also met sep­a­rately with Saudi King Sal­man and Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man to dis­cuss co­op­er­a­tion in com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism and its fi­nanc­ing.

“We’re happy to see this con­tin­u­ous co­op­er­a­tion be­tween us and (to) even strengthen it and in­crease it fur­ther with­out lim­its ...” Mo­hammed bin Sal­man said in wel­com­ing Tiller­son.

US of­fi­cials said Tiller­son would travel to Qatar on Thurs­day to brief the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad al-Thani, on his talks in Jed­dah, State Depart­ment spokesman R.C. Ham­monds said.

UAE For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Ab­dul­lah bin Zayed al-Na­hayan told re­porters dur­ing a visit to Slo­vakia that Tiller­son’s visit was un­likely to re­solve the row.

“I think it will ease ten- sions, but it’s just post­pon­ing the prob­lem, which will grow in the fu­ture.”

After Tiller­son and his Qatari coun­ter­part signed their coun­tert­er­ror­ism pact on Tues­day, the four states warned that this was “not enough”.

They also re­in­stated 13 wide-rang­ing de­mands they had ear­lier sub­mit­ted to Qatar, the world’s big­gest pro­ducer of liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas, as a con­di­tion for re­mov­ing sanctions.

I think it will ease ten­sions, but it’s just post­pon­ing the prob­lem, which will grow in the fu­ture.” Sheikh Ab­dul­lah bin Zayed al-Na­hayan, UAE For­eign Min­is­ter

The de­mands in­clude curb­ing Qatar’s re­la­tions with Iran, clos­ing the Do­hab­ased Al Jazeera TV chan­nel, shut­ting a Turk­ish mil­i­tary base in Qatar and hand­ing over all des­ig­nated “ter­ror­ists” on its ter­ri­tory.

France also said its for­eign min­is­ter would visit the Gulf, in­clud­ing Qatar and Saudi Ara­bia, this week, as part of its own ef­forts to over­come the rift.

The United States wor­ries the cri­sis could af­fect its mil­i­tary and coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions and in­crease the re­gional in­flu­ence of Iran, which has been sup­port­ing Qatar by al­low­ing it to use air and sea links through its ter­ri­tory.

Qatar hosts Udeid Air Base, the largest US mil­i­tary fa­cil­ity in the Mid­dle East, from which US-led coalition air­craft stage sor­ties against Is­lamic State in Syria and Iraq.

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