On Gulf trip, Pom­peo seeks an­swers on Khashoggi, end to Qatar row

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - LET’STALKABOUT # - Reuters let­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

WASH­ING­TON: US sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said on Sun­day that a rift be­tween Qatar and its Gulf Arab neigh­bours had gone on for too long and was threat­en­ing re­gional unity needed to counter Iran.

Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates, Bahrain and non-gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil ( GCC) mem­ber Egypt cut diplo­matic, trans­port and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, ac­cus­ing it of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism and their re­gional foe Shi’ite Mus­lim Iran -some­thing Doha de­nies.

The United States, an ally of the six-na­tion Sunni Mus­lim GCC, sees the rift as a threat to ef­forts to con­tain Iran and has pushed for a united Gulf front.

“When we have a com­mon chal­lenge, dis­putes be­tween coun­tries with shared ob­jec­tives are never help­ful,” Pom­peo, who is on an eight-day tour of the Mid­dle East, told a news con­fer­ence in the Qatari cap­i­tal Doha. “They never per­mit you to have as ro­bust a re­sponse to com­mon ad­ver­saries or com­mon chal­lenges as you might,” he added.

“We’re hop­ing that the unity of GCC will in­crease in the days and weeks and months ahead,” Pom­peo said, adding that Gulf unity was es­sen­tial for a planned Mid­dle East Strate­gic Al­liance (MESA) that would also in­clude Jor­dan and Egypt. Pom­peo later told re­porters that he had brought up the rift with of­fi­cials in Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE. “It’s ... not at all clear that the rift is any closer to be­ing re­solved to­day than it was yes­ter­day and I re­gret that,” he said.

Pom­peo has used the re­gional tour, which in­cluded stops in Abu Dhabi and Cairo, to shore up sup­port for the US troop with­drawal from Syria. He will head next to the Saudi cap­i­tal Riyadh, where he said the United States would en­sure there is “full and com­plete” ac­count­abil­ity on the mur­der of Ja­mal Khashoggi Us-based Wash­ing­ton Post jour­nal­ist from Saudi Ara­bia.

“We will con­tinue to talk about that and make sure we have all the facts so that they are held ac­count­able cer­tainly by the Saudis but by the US as well where ap­pro­pri­ate,” Pom­peo said. Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, was killed in­side the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul on Oc­to­ber 2.

REUTERS

US sec­re­tary of state Mike Pom­peo meets with Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Ha­mad al-thani in Doha on Sun­day.

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