Pom­peo: Qatar boy­cott ‘gone on too long’

Shanghai Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

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.


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