Monday , December 18 2017

US, Kuwait stress restraint in crisis – Saudis reject negotiations

UAE ENVOY SAYS GULF MAY CONDITION TRADE TO ROPE IN ‘PARTNERS’

Kuwaiti Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Information Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah meets with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

WASHINGTON, June 28, (Agencies): US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Kuwait’s Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Information Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al- Sabah stressed “the need for all parties to exercise restraint to allow for productive diplomatic discussions” in the GCC, the State Department said in a readout of their meeting.

Tillerson “reaffirmed his strong support for Kuwait’s efforts to mediate the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt,” and “urged the parties to remain open to negotiation as the best way to resolve the dispute,” the readout said. Both officials also agreed “that stopping terrorism and confronting extremism should be our shared and primary focus.”

The US and the United Nations expressed late Tuesday their support to Kuwait’s mediation efforts to resolve the current GCC crisis, said a statement by the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington. The US support was refl ected during Tillerson’s meeting with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah, said the statement.

Tillerson supported the initiative carried out by His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to end the crisis. Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al- Mubarak met with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who also lauded the international organization’s support to the Kuwaiti mediation efforts.

Guterres fully supported the initiative carried out by His Highness the Amir, hoping that it will end the crisis. Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah also met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, discussing with him recent regional and international developments. Both officials also stressed the importance of ending the GCC crisis.

The meetings were attended by Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al- Sabah. Gulf Arab states are considering fresh sanctions on Qatar and could ask their trading partners to choose between working with them or Doha, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. “There are certain economic sanctions that we can take which are being considered right now,” Omar Ghobash told the newspaper in an interview in London. “One possibility would be to impose conditions on our own trading partners and say you want to work  with us then you have got to make a commercial choice,” he said. He said the expulsion of Qatar from the Gulf Cooperation Council was “not the only sanction available”.

Demands non-negotiable
Saudi Arabia reiterated Tuesday that its demands on Qatar were not negotiable, as Tillerson held talks with the Qatari foreign minister on the Gulf states crisis. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who was also in Washington, was unbudging amid attempts by US and Kuwaiti diplomats to mediate the row which has left Qatar, a US ally, isolated under a trade and diplomatic embargo set by its Gulf Arab neighbors. “Our demands on Qatar are non-negotiable. It’s now up to Qatar to end its support for extremism and terrorism,” Jubeir said via Twitter.

Riyadh has laid down a list of 13 demands for Qatar, included the closure of Al-Jazeera, a downgrade of diplomatic ties with Iran and the shutdown of a Turkish military base in the emirate. The United States though has cautioned that some of the demands would be difficult for Qatar to accept, asking the Saudis for a clear list of grievances that are “reasonable and actionable.” Shortly after Jubeir’s comments, Tillerson met with Qatar’s top diplomat Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said talks would continue through the week, but added the Saudi demands remained “challenging” for Qatar. “Some of them will be difficult for Qatar to incorporate and to try to adhere to,” she said. “We continue to call on those countries to work together and work this out.”

Qataris condemn
Qatar on Wednesday condemned Saudi Arabia’s refusal to negotiate the demands of the kingdom and its allies for ending a crippling embargo on the emirate. Speaking from Washington, where he held talks with Tillerson on Tuesday, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed said the Saudi position was unacceptable. “This is contrary to the principles that govern international relations because you can’t just present lists of demands and refuse to negotiate,” Sheikh Mohammed said in comments published in Doha. Meanwhile, a UN human rights expert says it would be a “major blow against media pluralism” if Qatar shutters the Al-Jazeera network as demanded by other Arab states. David Kaye says any such move by Qatar in exchange for a lifting of sanctions imposed by its neighbors would further dent media freedoms in a region that “already suffering from severe restrictions on reporting and media.” The demand is among 13 that Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates presented to Qatar as conditions for restoring air, sea and land traffic to the energy-rich Gulf country. Kaye, the special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion, appealed to the international community “to urge these governments not to pursue this demand against Qatar.”

Qataris hire lawyers
A top Qatari human rights group said Wednesday it will employ Swiss lawyers to seek compensation for those impacted by the decision of Gulf countries to cut ties with the emirate. Ali bin Smaikh Al-Marri, chairman of Qatar’s National Human Rights Commission, said his group would take action against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which cut ties with Qatar this month. “We’ll be coordinating to start legal action with those affected by these sanctions,” Marri told a news conference.

“The three countries are responsible to compensate those affected,” he said, adding many Qataris qualified for compensation. “Some cases will be filed in courts in those three countries and in some courts that have international jurisdictions, like in Europe, related to compensation.” Marri refused to say which Swiss firm would be employed, but said a statement would be released in the near future.

The four states closed their airspace to Qatari carriers and blocked the emirate’s only land border, a vital route for its food imports. They also ordered all Qataris to leave and their own nationals to return home. Many Qataris own properties and businesses in these countries. One senior official said recently that most Qataris own “two or three properties and a villa” in Saudi alone. Thousands of families are also affected as parents are drawn from Qatar and one of the countries opposed to Doha, and will have property in both. The Gulf crisis, the worst to hit the region in years, shows no sign of abating.

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