Pompeo: Qatar boycott ‘gone on too long’
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday the ongoing boycott of Qatar by four of America’s allies in the Middle East “has dragged on too long,” though he gave no sign of any coming breakthrough in the dispute.
Stopping off in the small, energy-rich nation as part of a Middle East tour, America’s top diplomat made a repeated point to say that “great things” were happening between Qatar and the United States.
“We’re all more powerful when we’re working together,” Pompeo said at a news conference. “Disputes between countries that have a shared objective are never helpful.”
Pompeo said he signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar regarding the expansion and renovation of al-Udeid Air Base, which hosts the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command and some 10,000 American troops.
But, comments by Pompeo and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani gave no sense of any movement in the ongoing diplomatic crisis with Doha.
Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates began a boycott of Qatar in June 2017, alleging Qatar funds extremist groups and has toocozy ties to Iran.
Qatar has long denied funding extremists, but Doha shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran.
A similar dispute involving Qatar erupted in 2014. But this time positions have hardened against Qatar, whose alleged support for Islamist opposition groups has angered the Arab nations now boycotting it.
This month, General Anthony Zinni, a former commander of the US Central Command who retired from the Marine Corps in 2000, resigned as special American envoy to resolve the dispute. Regional analysts suggested it may be in part due to intransigence of those involved in the crisis.
“The departure of Zinni in no way reflects any change in America’s Middle East efforts, our strategy or our ongoing commitment to the region,” Pompeo said. “It was a time for change.”
From Qatar, Pompeo travels to Saudi Arabia. The relationship between Riyadh and the US remains tense following the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
“We will continue to have a conversation with the crown prince and the Saudis about ensuring that the accountability is full and complete with respect to the unacceptable murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Pompeo said.