Thursday , December 14 2017

TILLERSON LAMENTS HUMANITARIAN COST OF BLOCKADE – US, EU back Kuwait Gulf mediation

Crisis hinders US military actions

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives to speak in the Treaty Room of the US Department of State on June 9, in Washington, DC. Tillerson urged Saudi Arabia and its regional allies on Friday to ease their blockade of Qatar, warning it is harming the regional struggle against extremism. Tillerson said Qatar must do more to crack down on support for terrorism but that the crisis must not disrupt action against the Islamic State group. (AFP)

WASHINGTON, June 10, (Agencies): The US supports mediation efforts of His Highness the Amir of Kuwait to bring about a peaceful resolution to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) dispute with Qatar, as well as progress toward eliminating all forms of support for terrorism — military, financial, moral or ideological, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday. “Yes, we’ll support these mediation efforts, along with the (His Highness) Amir of Kuwait” Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Tillerson said in remarks at the State Department.

Three weeks ago, President Donald Trump joined members of the GCC “in a strong show of partnership, repudiation of extremism and a plan to defeat terrorism of all kinds in the region and around the world,” Tillerson said. “Now the situation in the Arabian Gulf over the last few days is troubling to the United States, the region and to many people who are directly affected.” The US wishes to reaffirm its commitment to the spirit of the summit held last month in Riyadh, he said. “As we combine efforts to defeat the military, financial and ideological support of terrorists, we expect to see progress in the Arab world toward greater political expression,” he said. “An important pathway to attack Islamic extremism and to prevent political activism from escalating into violence is to allow marginalized voices opportunities for political expression.” But this process requires regional and global consensus, and mutual understanding, he said.

The GCC Summit creates a platform to achieve this consensus and understanding, he added. “We call for calm and thoughtful dialogue with clear expectations and accountability among the parties in order to strengthen relationships,” Tillerson said. “We ask that there be no further escalation by the parties in the region. “We call on Qatar to be responsive to the concerns of its neighbors,” he said.

“Qatar has a history of supporting groups that have spanned the spectrum of political expression, from activism to violence.” The Amir of Qatar has made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorist elements from his country, “but he must do more, and he must do it more quickly,” Tillerson said. Others must also continue to eliminate factions of support for violent organizations within their own borders, he said. “Again, that was a commitment made by all at the summit,” he said.

“We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar.” There are humanitarian consequences to the blockade, Tillerson said. “We’re seeing shortages of food, families are being forcibly separated, and children are being pulled out of school,” he said. “We believe these are unintended consequences, especially during this holy month of Ramadan, but they can be addressed immediately.” The blockade is also impairing US and other international business activities in the region, Tillerson said.

It has created a hardship on the people of Qatar, and the people whose livelihoods depend on commerce with Qatar, he added. “The blockade is hindering US military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS,” he said, referring to the so-called Islamic State. “In the last few days I’ve spoken to many leaders in the region, and as I’ve said to all of them, we know you’re stronger together,” Tillerson said. “It is clear to me based on these conversations that the elements of a solution are available,” he said. “The GCC must emerge united and stronger to show the world the GCC’s resolve in its fight against violence and terrorism, and its commitment to countering the threat from terrorism. “Our expectation is that these countries will immediately take steps to deescalate the situation, and put forth a good-faith effort to resolve their grievances they have with each other,” he added.

EU High Representative Federica Mogherini expressed, meanwhile, the European Union’s full support to mediation efforts by His Highness the Amir to defuse tensions in the Gulf region. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Thani in Brussels Friday evening, she said the EU has two main messages for the Gulf countries. “One is avoid any further escalation and second engage in a political dialogue in particular taking advantage of the mediation efforts that Kuwait is putting in place,” she said. “We do not want to multiply mediation efforts. For us it is clear that there is one mediation effort in place that is the one which succeeded during a similar but less dramatic crisis in 2014. We believe that the Kuwait effort can be the one succeeding. We support their work and we have put the EU help and support at their disposal to accompany it in the best possible manner,” she stressed.

Mogherini said she had a long telephone conversation with the Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah yesterday, and just before today’s meeting Mogherini had a second phone call in 24 hours with the Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir. Mogherini said she will continue contact with the parties in the coming days “always with one purpose to support the work that Kuwait is doing.” She said she had a “very long, substantial and good meeting” with the Qatari foreign minister who arrived in Brussels from Berlin and departed for Moscow. He did not make any statements to the press.

Amnesty
Meanwhile, Amnesty International warned Saturday of the “heartbreak and fear” being suffered by potentially thousands of ordinary individuals because of the political dispute in the Gulf that has isolated Qatar. “Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents as part of their dispute with Qatar, splitting up families and destroying people’s livelihoods and education,” the London-based human rights watchdog said.

“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,” said James Lynch, deputy director of Amnesty’s Global Issues Programme, who was in Doha last week. “These drastic measures are already having a brutal effect, splitting children from parents and husbands from wives,” said Amnesty after its researchers interviewed dozens of people affected by the crisis. “People from across the region … risk losing jobs and having their education disrupted.”

Mogherini said the EU has good relations with all the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and “we will keep good relations will all countries in the Gulf. “We also believe that regional cooperation in the Gulf and around the Gulf is key to have an effective work on counter terrorism,” she said. “We have a direct EU interest because of the work on security. We are together in the coalition against DAESH we are together in our efforts to find a way out of Syrian crisis besides economic and trade interests,” she noted.

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