POST TIME: 1 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
US praises Qatar for counterterrorism cooperation but calls for Gulf unity

US praises Qatar for counterterrorism cooperation but calls for Gulf unity

WASHINGTON: The United States praised Qatar for its improved counterterrorism cooperation Tuesday and warned that its rift with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbors has hurt the fight against extremism, reports AFP.

Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a diplomatic boycott of Qatar and closed their frontiers last year, accusing the gas-rich emirate of cozying up to Iran and sponsoring Islamist groups. US President Donald Trump, fresh from a successful trip to Riyadh, seemed at first to take the Saudi side in the dispute and demanded that Qatar, which denies the charges, change its behavior. But US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have been working to bring the dispute to an end and bind both Qatar and its opponents into a deeper mutual alliance.

On Tuesday, these diplomatic efforts produced the first of what may become an annual US-Qatari Strategic Dialogue, hosted by Tillerson and Mattis for their counterparts from Qatar.

In opening remarks, neither side criticized Saudi Arabia or its ambitious crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman by name, but both stressed the importance of unity in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

“As the Gulf dispute nears the eight-month mark the United States remains as concerned today as we were at its outset,” Tillerson said, opening the meeting of senior US and Qatari officials. “This dispute has had direct negative consequences economically and militarily for those involved as well as the United States.” Saudi Arabia is also a long-time ally of the United States and is bigger, richer and more influential than Qatar, which lies on a peninsula off its neighbor’s Gulf coast in gas-rich waters.