Pom­peo: Cri­sis in Qatar needs to end

Mideast tour takes top U.S. diplo­mat to en­ergy-rich na­tion.

Dayton Daily News - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Matthew Lee

RIYADH, SAUDI ARA­BIA — U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said Sun­day an 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 Mideast 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 un­der- stand­ing with Qatar re­gard­ing the ex­pan­sion and ren­o­va­tion of al-Udeid Air Base, which hosts the for­ward head­quar­ters of the U.S. mil­i­tary’s Cen­tral Com­mand and 10,000 Amer­i­can troops.

How­ever, com­ments by Pom­peo and Qatari For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Ab­dul­rah­man Al Thani gave no sense of any move- ment in the on­go­ing diplo- matic cri­sis with Doha.

Later, speak­ing to a U.S. Em­bassy staff mem­ber in Qatar who said her job was mov­ing to the UAE due to the boy­cott’s ef­fects, Pom­peo was even more frank.

“It’s on ev­ery­one’s mind and not at all clear that the rift is any closer to be­ing re­solved to­day than it was yes­ter­day — and I re­gret that,” Pom­peo said.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates be­gan a boy­cott of Qatar in June 2017, al­leg­ing Qatar funds ex­trem­ist groups and has too-cozy ties to Iran. Qatar has long de­nied fund­ing ex­trem­ists, but Doha shares a mas­sive off­shore nat­u­ral gas field with Tehran that gives its cit­i­zens the high­est per-capita in­come in the world. It re­stored diplo­matic re­la­tions with Iran af­ter the cri­sis erupted, mark­ing a set­back for Saudi Ara­bia, which views Shi­ite power Iran as its main re­gional ri­val.

A sim­i­lar dis­pute in­volv­ing Qatar erupted in 2014. But this time po­si­tions have hard­ened against Qatar.

Ear­lier this month, Gen. An­thony Zinni, a for­mer com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand who re­tired from the Ma­rine Corps in 2000, re­signed as spe­cial Amer­i­can en­voy to re­solve the dis­pute. Re­gional an­a­lysts sug­gest it may be in part to in­tran­si­gence of those in­volved.

“The de­par­ture of Mr. 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. He made this de­ci­sion to move on, but Amer­ica’s com­mit­ment re­mains un­changed.”

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo (left) and Qatari For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Ab­dul­rah­man Al Thani.

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