DOHA SAYS GULF CITIZENS CAN STAY – BOYCOTT COALITION MAY EASE EXPULSIONS
Qatar hires 9/11 Attorney General Ashcroft to audit end to terror funding
KUWAIT CITY, June 11, (Agencies): Kuwait stressed on Sunday the “inevitability” of resolving the rift between several neighbouring Gulf Arab states through dialogue as it continues its efforts to mediate a solution.
In an earlier statement, First Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah underlined that Kuwait would “not abandon” these efforts aimed at “bridging the gap and reaching a solution to the root causes of the dispute.” Over the past few days, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah’s visits to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar aimed to “maintain the strength of brotherly ties” between the Gulf Cooperation Council members, said the minister.
Qatari officials are ready to consider the concerns of their neighbours and respond to these efforts in order to achieve security and stability, the minister went on to reveal. Furthermore, he expressed Kuwait’s utmost appreciation to all nations which supported its mediatory role.
Amid the rift, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have all said they would be taking steps to address difficulties faced by families of mixed marriages after the three expelled nationals from Qatar and banned their own nationals from visiting the country.
The continuing efforts of His Highness the Amir of Kuwait have been welcomed worldwide, including by the US and the European Union. The rift has disrupted travel, separated families, severed commercial links and sown confusion among banks and businesses while deepening divisions between their respective allies fighting in wars and political struggles from Libya to Yemen. “(Kuwait) affirms the readiness of the brothers in Qatar to understand the reality of the qualms and concerns of their brothers and to heed the noble endeavours to enhance security and stability,” Kuwait’s state news agency KUNA quoted Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah as saying.
Kuwait, which has retained ties with Qatar and has often acted as a mediator in regional disputes, said it wanted to resolve the dispute “within the unified Gulf house”. A previous mediation effort by Kuwait in which HH the Amir shuttled between Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha, failed to achieve an immediate breakthrough. “Is this the beginning of wisdom and reasonable thinking? I hope so,” UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash wrote on Twitter in reaction to Kuwait saying Qatar was ready to listen to the grievances.
US President Donald Trump at first offered to host Qatar and its adversaries — all US allies — at the White House, but on Friday said Qatar has been a high-level sponsor of terrorism and backed the Gulf pressure.
Saudi Arabia’s powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed efforts to “counter terrorism and extremism” in a telephone call with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday, state news agency SPA said. But a Qatari diplomat said the crisis reflected a lack of US leadership. “This is the biggest testimony to US failure in the Gulf,” the diplomat told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “(It) gives others the impression the US does not know how to manage the relationship with its allies or is incapable.”
On Friday Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt tightened their squeeze on Qatar by putting dozens of figures and charities they link to the country on terrorism blacklists. Qatar’s official overseer of charities denied on Sunday that philanthropic groups in the country backed terrorism, saying it deplored the accusation.
A peninsular nation of 2.5 million people, Qatar has for years punched well above its weight in world affairs by parleying its vast gas wealth into influence across the region, irking many with its maverick stances and support for Islamists. But it was importing 80 percent of its food from bigger Gulf Arab neighbours before they cut ties and is now in talks with Iran and Turkey to secure food and water supplies.
Iran — the main regional rival of Saudi Arabia — sent four cargo planes of food to Qatar and plans to provide 100 tonnes of fruit and vegetables every day, Iranian officials said on Sunday, amid concerns of shortages. Senior officials from the countries opposed to Qatar have warned it that appealing for foreign assistance will not advance a reconciliation. Qatar’s energy minister said on Sunday Doha remained committed to an oil output cut deal agreed by OPEC and non-OPEC producers last month. Mohammed al-Sada said in a statement: “circumstances in the region shall not prevent the state of Qatar from honouring its international commitment of cutting its oil production”. In a sign Gulf states were seeking to lessen the human impact of their June 5 severing of ties, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE said on Sunday they had set up hotlines to help families with Qatari members, without elaborating. Meanwhile, Qatar, moved Sunday to avoid an escalation of its feud with Gulf neighbours by telling their citizens they are welcome to stay, while boasting of “business as usual” for vital gas exports. Iran also announced it had sent tonnes of vegetables to Qatar, which has seen food imports threatened after its neighbours cut air, sea and land links with the country.
Qatar said late on Saturday it would not retaliate with such measures of its own. A statement carried on Qatari state media said Doha would “not take any measures against residents of Qatar who hold the nationalities of countries that severed diplomatic ties … on the back of hostile and tendentious campaigns against the country”. The decision will come as a relief to the more than 11,000 people from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain living in Qatar.
Concerns have been raised for the impact of these measures on people who live in all the countries affected. “For potentially thousands of people across the Gulf, the effect of the steps imposed in the wake of this political dispute is suffering, heartbreak and fear,” Amnesty International has said. Saudi Arabia said Sunday it was ordering “suitable measures” to help families with mixed citizenships but provided few details. Despite the unprecedented sanctions, Qatar says that its crucial exports of liquified gas have not been interrupted. “Qatar Petroleum … is conducting business as usual throughout all its upstream, midstream and downstream businesses and operations, and in all activities across all of QP’s world-class facilities,” a statement read. Gas has helped transform the tiny emirate into one of the richest countries in the world, fuelling its rise into a major regional player and helping fund huge infrastructure projects such as the 2022 football World Cup, which will be hosted by Qatar.
Qatar has paid $2.5 million to the law firm of a former attorney general under US president George W. Bush to audit its efforts at stopping terrorism funding, a matter at the heart of the Gulf diplomatic crisis that erupted last week.
John Ashcroft personally will lead his Washington-based firm’s efforts “to evaluate, verify and as necessary, strengthen the client’s anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing” compliance and potentially lobby lawmakers and the media, according to documents filed to the US Justice Department.
Qatar hiring Ashcroft, who was attorney general during the Sept 11 attacks and then helped push through the Patriot Act, appeared aimed at appeasing Washington as several Gulf nations try to isolate it. Officials in Qatar, home to a major US military base, and Ashcroft’s firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and cut off land, sea and air routes to the tiny peninsular nation that relies on food imports. Its long-haul carrier Qatar Airways has also been impacted.
The Ashcroft Law Firm filed the paperwork with the Justice Department’s National Security Division on Friday. Such reports are required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act, first put in place over concerns about Nazi propagandists operating in the US ahead of World War II. The filed reports show Ashcroft’s firm “may engage in outreach efforts to US government officials and/or communicate with the media” regarding its findings. “The firm understands the urgency of this matter and the need to communicate accurate information to both a broad constituency and certain domestic agencies and leaders,” a contract between Qatar and Ashcroft’s firm reads.
The contract filed by Ashcroft’s firm was signed by Ahmad al-Hammadi, the secretary-general of Qatar’s Foreign Ministry. The lump sum up front of $2.5 million is also rare for such lobbying efforts, likely signaling the urgency Qatar felt in getting its message heard in Washington. While US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged Gulf nations not to escalate the crisis, Trump repeatedly has criticized Qatar over its alleged support of militants. Hiring US firms to lobby American lawmakers is nothing new for the oil-and-gas-rich Gulf. Saudi Arabia in particular has multiple firms representing its interests in the US. A recent Saudi-led effort to send American military veterans to lobby Congress proved controversial when some said they were unaware the kingdom paid for their trips to Washington.