U.S. F-15 DEAL, SHIP VISIT ACCENT MILITARY TIES TO QATAR
NEW YORK, June 15, (Agencies): UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his full support for Kuwait’s efforts to deescalate tension and promote an effective dialogue, his spokesman said on Wednesday. UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Secretary-General has been following the crisis in the Gulf region closely.
Due to his conviction on the importance of a regional solution, Dujarric confirmed that Guterres spoke on Wednesday with First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, following a number of other contacts, to express his full support for Kuwait’s efforts to deescalate tension and promote an effective dialogue. Oman on Thursday reaffirmed backing to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s efforts to contain the ongoing Gulf crisis.
The Sultanate is looking forward to see backing from all parties to His Highness the Amir’s efforts, the Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah said during a phone call with the US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, according to the Oman News Agency (ONA). The minister underlined the US major role for concluding a solution to the disagreements. He also reaffirmed Oman’s confidence that “brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)” are willing to overcome the crisis, and work for realizing the common interests of the member states, as well as maintaining security and stability in the region.
The two chief diplomats reviewed bilateral relations, as Tillerson voiced the US Administration’s desire to promote them in all fields to serve mutual interests. Head of Kuwait National Guard His Highness Sheikh Salem Al-Ali affirmed that “the smoke of the crisis between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain is starting to dissipate, thanks to the efforts exerted by His Highness the Amir, reports Al Seyassah daily.
During the most recent of the meetings that are held in his diwaniya every Tuesday which are attended by a number of political, economic, diplomatic and social figures, Sheikh Salem said, “We have been following with interest the emergency crisis between Qatar and the three Gulf countries. His Highness the Amir has hastened to address the crisis through a good initiative to reunite the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council”.
He highlighted the great trust that His Highness the Amir has been given by the parties involved in the dispute, as well as the global appreciation for his initiative, especially from the major countries that are keen about GCC unity and the excellent ties among the member states. As for Qatar, Sheikh Salem said, “It is a sisterly country and very dear to us like the way it is dear to the rest of the GCC countries. I am sure this storm will pass peacefully in favor of the GCC”. He explained that the GCC, throughout its 36-year history, has undergone a lot of challenges and difficulties but it managed to overcome them every single time with unity, strength and solidity in the face of those hardships.
There have been differences in opinions in the past but they never affected the stability of the GCC. Sheikh Salem added, “This problem has been put behind us, thanks to the wisdom of the leaders and their ability to understand others’ viewpoints. There is no doubt that Qatar is one of the countries with international relations. They realize the effectiveness of the common stance of the GCC in these relations and will strive to protect this international efficacy”.
Deal shows US support
A $12 billion deal to buy US F-15 fighter jets shows Qatar has deep-rooted support from Washington, a Qatari official said on Thursday, despite President Donald Trump’s repeated accusations that Doha supports terrorism.
Qatar is facing a severe economic and diplomatic boycott by Saudi Arabia and its regional allies who cut ties last week, in the worst rift among Gulf Arab states in years. Trump has repeatedly echoed the accusations against Qatar, even as his Defense and State Departments have tried to remain neutral in the dispute among key allies. Qatar hosts a big US military base housing the headquarters of US air forces in the Middle East. On Wednesday US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed the previously- approved Boeing plane deal with Qatari Minister of State for Defence Affairs Khalid al-Attiyah.
Qatar’s ambassador to the United States, Meshal Hamad al-Thani, posted a picture of the signing ceremony on Twitter. “This is of course proof that US institutions are with us but we have never doubted that,” a Qatari official in Doha said. “Our militaries are like brothers. America’s support for Qatar is deep-rooted and not easily influenced by political changes.” A Qatari defence ministry source said the deal was for 36 jets. In November, under the administration of former President Barack Obama, the United States approved a possible sale of up to 72 F-15QA aircraft to Qatar for $21.1 billion. Boeing, the prime contractor on the sale, declined to comment. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, on a Gulf tour trying to help broker an end to the crisis, defended the plane deal. “Just like other countries, like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt …. it is natural for Qatar to buy airplanes or parts necessary for its own defence,” Cavusoglu said in Kuwait following talks with his Kuwaiti counterpart, according to Turkey’s staterun Anadolu news agency.
Turkey is friendly to Qatar and has sent food supplies since the sanctions were imposed. Kuwait has led efforts to mediate the dispute. A European diplomat in the Gulf said the timing of the deal appeared coincidental. “Presumably the US could have delayed the deal if they’d wanted to, although I don’t think there’s a great connect between sales and foreign policy.” Qatar is an important base for the US military carrying out operations against Islamic State militants and other groups in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and beyond. Al Udeid Air Base is home to more than 11,000 US and coalition troops. Two US warships arrived at Hamad port in Qatar as part of a planned joint military exercise involving marine forces, Qatar’s state news agency said on Wednesday. The Pentagon said the jets sale would increase security cooperation between the United States and Qatar and help them operate together. It added that Mattis and Attiyah had also discussed the current state of operations against Islamic State and the importance of de-escalating tensions in the Gulf.
Macron urges dialogue
French President Emmanuel Macron is urging Qatar and its rival neighbors to talk directly, to defuse their tensions over alleged terrorism financing, and said Wednesday he will step up diplomatic discussions with Gulf leaders in the coming days. Macron spoke after meeting with Moroccan King Mohammed VI, who is also trying to mediate the escalating Qatar standoff. Speaking in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, Macron called for a “clarification of all the links and financing of terrorist groups, whatever it is and wherever it comes from.” Stressing the international importance of stability in the Middle East, Macron said it’s important “that the parties speak again” and find a way to “de-escalate” tensions that have mounted in recent days. “The king of Morocco shares this concern,” Macron told reporters. Mohammed VI and Macron have spoken to key Gulf players in recent days and Macron said he will invite regional leaders to Paris for further discussions. Macron also offered support to the king over tensions in Morocco’s northern Rif region, where protests over corruption and bleak living conditions prompted a violent police crackdown and large-scale arrests. Macron said he raised the issue but said the king gave him no “reason to fear renewed repression” and said the king instead appears committed to a “long-term response to the deep causes” of the conflict. Macron’s visit is the first by the recently elected French president to a North African country, and aimed to strengthen cooperation on security and other issues with Morocco, considered an important force for stability in an often-volatile region. The two leaders discussed France’s military operation against Islamic extremists in Africa’s Sahel region. Macron attended the Ramadan fastbreaking dinner with his wife, Brigitte, at the invitation of the king in his personal residence.
Turkey for Saudi talks
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday held talks in Kuwait to push mediation efforts aimed at resolving a standoff between a Saudi-led alliance and Qatar. Cavusoglu discussed with his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah “regional and international developments,” the official KUNA news agency said. The Turkish chief diplomat held talks with Qatar’s Amir and foreign minister on Wednesday and plans to visit Saudi Arabia. Ahead of the talks in Kuwait, Cavusoglu told a press conference that he will travel to the holy city of Makkah on Friday for talks with King Salman. “Although the kingdom is a party in this crisis, we know that King Salman is a party in resolving it,” the Turkish minister said. “We want to hear the views of Saudi Arabia regarding possible solutions and will share with them our views in a transparent way … We pay a great attention to our relations with them,” he said. Cavusoglu said Qatari officials believe they are not the cause of the current crisis and want to know the claims of the four countries. “We are trying hard to prevent any escalation and find a quick solution to the crisis … Resolving the crisis is not through taking (boycott) decisions but through dialogue,” Cavusoglu said.
Gulf states transport ministers and aviation officials kicked off a meeting on Thursday at the UN aviation agency’s headquarters in Montreal to discuss the airspace standoff resulting from the Arab world’s biggest powers decision to cut ties with Qatar. Any direct talks would be the first since the diplomatic row erupted last week that led to the economic isolation of Qatar. Qatar had asked the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to intervene after its Gulf neighbors closed their airspace to Qatar flights, but some sources were skeptical about finding a quick solution. The Saudi transport minister arrived at the ICAO headquarters on Thursday, however, a member of the country’s delegation said they would not be meeting directly with the Qatar representatives.
Qatar is expected to meet separately with council members and ICAO president, according to sources familiar with the meeting. One of the sources said the talks are expected to last for two days. Qatar has indicated that it will ask the council to resolve the conflict, using a dispute resolution mechanism under the Chicago Convention, which is overseen by ICAO. The agency does not impose binding rules, but wields clout through safety and security standards that are usually followed by its 191-member countries. One of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the private talks, said the airspace dispute would be difficult to resolve because it is a symptom of a larger row between the countries. ICAO — a UN agency that regulates international air travel under the Chicago Convention — had said it would host talks of ministers and senior officials from Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt to seek a “consensus-based solution” that addressed “current regional concerns.”
No plan for sanctions
There are no apparent plans by Arab states to propose that names from their Qatar blacklist be subjected to United Nations sanctions, diplomats said on Wednesday, a likely difficult move that would need approval by the 15-member UN Security Council. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain on Friday branded 59 people, including Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi, as terrorists and 12 entities, among them Qatari-funded charities Qatar Charity and Eid Charity, as having links to terrorism. The move came days after the four Arab states severed relations with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and their arch-adversary Iran, charges Qatar rejects. Several other countries followed suit. At least six of the people on the Arab states blacklist are already named on the UN Security Council al-Qaeda and Islamic State sanctions list, which subjects them to a global asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo. The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on al-Qaeda, Islamic State, the Taleban and related groups and people with ties to them. Iran is also subjected to a UN arms embargo.