U.S. inks coun­tert­er­ror­ism deal with Qatar

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - ADAM SCHRECK AND MAGGIE HYDE In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Fares Akram of The Associated Press.

DOHA, Qatar — U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son sealed a deal Tues­day to in­ten­sify Qatar’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts, tack­ling a cen­tral is­sue in the dis­pute pit­ting the Per­sian Gulf na­tion against four other Amer­i­can al­lies lined up against it.

Tiller­son out­lined the agree­ment at the end of his first visit to Qatar since its neigh­bors moved to iso­late it over griev­ances, in­clud­ing what they al­lege is its sup­port for ex­trem­ist groups.

It was his sec­ond stop on a shut­tle-diplo­macy cir­cuit that will take him next to Saudi Ara­bia, which has shut Qatar’s only land bor­der and is the most pow­er­ful of the coun­tries op­pos­ing it.

The cen­ter­piece of the visit was the sign­ing of a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing that lays out steps Qatar can take to bol­ster its fight against ter­ror­ism and ad­dress short­falls in polic­ing ter­ror­ism fund­ing.

Tiller­son said the deal, the de­tails of which were not made pub­lic, has been in the works for a while and in­cluded some steps that have al­ready been taken.

“To­gether, the United States and Qatar will do more to track down fund­ing sources, will do more to col­lab­o­rate and share in­for­ma­tion and will do more to keep the re­gion and our home­land safe,” he said af­ter talks with Emir Tamim bin Ha­mad Al Thani.

Tiller­son also ex­pressed some en­cour­age­ment for Qatar ahead of his talks to­day in Saudi Ara­bia.

“I think Qatar has been quite clear in its po­si­tions and, I think, very rea­son­able,” he said ear­lier in the day.

Though largely sym­bolic, the deal al­lows Tiller­son to show some progress in his first ma­jor at­tempt at global me­di­a­tion as sec­re­tary of state and also bol­sters Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s claim to be ramp­ing up the fight against ter­ror fi­nanc­ing.

The deal may also help Tiller­son ar­gue that Qatar is mak­ing a good-faith ef­fort to ad­dress con­cerns and that Qatar’s neigh­bors need to do the same.

Ahead of Tiller­son’s visit, U.S. of­fi­cials worked vig­or­ously to lower ex­pec­ta­tions, in­sist­ing that he did not ex­pect an im­me­di­ate break­through and cau­tion­ing that a res­o­lu­tion could take months. Wary of let­ting the U.S. get dragged into the mid­dle of an in­tra-Gulf spat, Tiller­son had avoided tak­ing on a cen­tral me­di­at­ing role un­til it be­came clear that Kuwait-led ef­forts to re­solve the cri­sis were stalled.

Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, the Kuwaiti emir who is me­di­at­ing the dis­pute, said Tues­day that he is “ex­tremely con­cerned” about the cri­sis, and he ex­pressed “bit­ter­ness” over what he called “un­prece­dented de­vel­op­ments,” with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

Tiller­son, a for­mer oil­man with years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the re­gion, be­gan his Gulf visit Mon­day by meet­ing Kuwait’s ruler, who has been act­ing as a me­di­a­tor be­tween Qatar and the quar­tet of Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emi­rates and Egypt.

The four na­tions broke off re­la­tions with Qatar and cut air, sea and land routes with it more than a month ago. They later is­sued a 13-point list of de­mands to re­store re­la­tions and gave Doha 10 days to com­ply.

The de­mands in­clude Qatar shut­ting down news out­lets in­clud­ing Al-Jazeera, cut­ting ties with Is­lamist groups such as the Mus­lim Brother­hood, lim­it­ing ties with Iran and ex­pelling Turk­ish troops sta­tioned in the coun­try.

Qatar has re­peat­edly de­nied sup­port­ing ex­trem­ist groups and has re­jected the de­mands, say­ing that agree­ing to them whole­sale would un­der­mine its sovereignty.

It does, how­ever, at least in­di­rectly sup­port Is­lamist groups that other na­tions view as ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions, such as the Pales­tinian mil­i­tant group Ha­mas. Qatar has hosted se­nior Ha­mas of­fi­cials and is the largest fi­nan­cial pa­tron to the Ha­mas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Un­der­scor­ing that po­si­tion, Qatari en­voy Mo­hammed al-Amadi signed an agree­ment Tues­day with a Pales­tinian con­trac­tor to build eight res­i­den­tial build­ings in Gaza. He said his coun­try would con­tinue to sup­port de­vel­op­ment projects in the sea­side ter­ri­tory — aid Qatar ar­gues is for the Pales­tinian peo­ple rather than Ha­mas.

Tiller­son’s ar­rival in the Gulf co­in­cided with the re­lease by CNN of al­leged agree­ments be­tween Qatar and its neigh­bors dat­ing from 2013 and 2014 that the news chan­nel says were leaked by a source in the re­gion.

They in­clude a hand­writ­ten 2013 deal be­tween the lead­ers of Saudi Ara­bia, Kuwait and Qatar to not in­ter­fere in the in­ter­nal af­fairs of fel­low mem­bers of the six-na­tion Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil, which also in­cludes Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emi­rates.

That agree­ment specif­i­cally ruled out sup­port for the Mus­lim Brother­hood and other un­named groups that could threaten the bloc’s mem­bers.

Qatar sees the Brother­hood as a le­git­i­mate po­lit­i­cal force and has for years hosted its spir­i­tual guide, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi. Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates and Egypt la­bel the Brother­hood a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

None of the coun­tries in­volved ques­tioned the au­then­tic­ity of the doc­u­ments.

The four coun­tries that sev­ered ties with Qatar said the leaked files “con­firm be­yond any doubt Qatar’s fail­ure to meet its com­mit­ments and its full vi­o­la­tion of its pledges.” Their 13-point list of de­mands re­leased in June was tied to those ear­lier deals and was “fully in line with the spirit of what was agreed upon,” they said.

The head of Qatar’s gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tion of­fice, Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, ac­cused the quar­tet of un­der­min­ing me­di­a­tion ef­forts by leak­ing “se­lec­tive ex­cerpts” of the agree­ments and or­ga­niz­ing “a smear cam­paign in the in­ter­na­tional me­dia to dam­age Qatar’s rep­u­ta­tion.”

“Their ac­tions demon­strate that the blockad­ing na­tions are not in­ter­ested in en­gag­ing in hon­est ne­go­ti­a­tions to re­solve our dif­fer­ences,” he said, adding that Qatar was still open to talks to re­solve the dis­pute.

AP/ALEXANDER W. RIEDEL

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son meets Tues­day with Sheikh Tamim Bin Ha­mad Al Thani, Qatar’s emir, at the Sea Palace in Doha.

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