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Monday, October 26, 2020

US official claims Qatar blockade to end ‘in weeks’

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The United States has expressed hopes for the end of the Saudi-led illegal blockade on Qatar during an event in Washington on Wednesday. 

A US State Department official said the illegal land, air and sea blockade imposed on Qatar could come to an end ‘within weeks’, noting Washington has been involved in efforts to end the blockade at the highest level.

David Schenker, assistant secretary of Near Eastern affairs at the US Department of State, made the remarks during an event hosted on Wednesday by the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings in Washington, DC. 

“I don’t want to get into the whole diplomacy in it but there is some movement. I would like to say that it’s going to be a matter of weeks,” Schenker claimed.

Despite this, the US official warned there has not been any “fundamental shifts” yet regarding the three-year blockade which has triggered the worst GCC crisis in years.

“There’s not been a fundamental shift that makes this that we’re going to push the door open right now, but in our talks we’re detecting a little more flexibility,” he said.

Pre-election ‘wins’

Washington’s role in the region has been particularly significant in recent years, especially since President Donald Trump, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, came to office.

As the November US elections approach, the Trump administration has been stepping up its efforts in the Gulf region.

Most prominently, Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House advisor, Jared Kushner led a delegation from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi earlier this month, in what was described as a “historic” trip that followed a controversial normalisation of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

On Tuesday, a US official revealed the Israel-UAE accord would be signed at the White House on September 15, just weeks ahead of the US presidential elections.

Read also: White House advisor Jared Kushner meets Qatar Amir in Doha

Though little breakthrough has been made, the United States – as well as regional mediator Kuwait – has been pushing to resolve the three-year blockade on Qatar.

According to a Wall Street Journal report released earlier this year, Washington has pressed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to stop a ban on Qatari airlines using their airspace. Meanwhile, a Foreign Policy report in August suggested Trump “strongly rejected” a Saudi proposal to invade Qatar in 2017.

In the summer of 2017, four Arab nations – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, imposing a complete air, land and sea blockade over claims Doha supports terrorism. Qatar has consistently denied the allegations.

Shortly after, the blockading nations proposed a list of 13 demands, including closing Al Jazeera Media Network, shuttering a Turkish military base, cutting ties with Iran and links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar refused the demands which it said were made to be rejected.

Do you think the blockade will end soon?


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