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Resolve Qatar row or no Camp David: Donald Trump tells Persian Gulf

There's also concern that holding the summit while the crisis is still raging could lead to drama that would reflect poorly on Trump the host

AP | PTI  |  Washington 

Donald Trump Grump
President Donald Trump  (Photo: AP/PTI)

wants to bring feuding leaders to for a show of solidarity with the But there are strings attached: No breakthrough in the crisis, no

A potential summit of the six-country in May at the prestigious presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains will be scuttled unless and neighbours Saudi Arabia, the and are on track to resolve the nearly year-long spat.

A pair of emissaries will deliver the message next week as they crisscross the Gulf in a renewed bid to try to end the crisis.

It's not clear that the Gulf countries even want to attend such a summit, which would require leaders who have spent the last eight months bashing to put all of that aside and pose for friendly group photo-ops.

But if there's one trait that unifies Qatar and its neighbours, it's an unwavering desire to show they're simpatico with Trump.

Yet even as the holds out hope for a summit, it's telling Gulf nations there's no sense in proceeding as long as the quarrelling countries are still not on speaking terms, according to several US officials and briefed on the situation.

There's also concern that holding the summit while the crisis is still raging could lead to drama that would reflect poorly on Trump the host, the individuals said.

Short of one side or the other fully capitulating, it's unclear what steps the countries could take that would demonstrate enough progress to merit moving ahead with the summit. But one proposal being floated by the US is for Qatar's neighbours to end the air blockade that has prevented Qatari flights from landing in the other nations or using their airspace, officials said.

There was no comment from the or the embassies of Qatar and the A Saudi said the notion that the US was pressing to end the crisis to make way for a summit was "false," adding that the leaders of both countries "are keen on continuing cooperation between both our countries and between the GCC and the USA."

The wasn't authorised to comment by name and demanded anonymity.

Qatar has been under siege since early June, when its neighbours severed ties over claims the small, was funding terrorism, disrupting Gulf unity and fomenting opposition across the region. They cut Qatar's air, sea and land routes, creating a de facto blockade.

The countries vowed to isolate Qatar economically until it heeds their demands, but Qatar has insisted it can survive indefinitely on its own. Eight months later, the crisis is at a standstill, with both sides dug in firmer than ever.

Early on, tried to broker a resolution, even shuttling between the countries for indirect talks. When that failed, the stepped back, and has largely left it to -- another GCC country -- to mediate.

Since then, the US has offered cautious praise for steps Qatar has taken to address concerns about lax financial regulations that allowed funds to flow to terror groups. But those steps have failed to satisfy and the other neighbours, whose list of demands also includes shutting down Qatar-based Al-Jazeera and cutting ties with Islamist groups including the

Qatar claims those demands constitute a major infringement on its sovereignty.

"Qatar's steps in addressing Trump's concerns regarding terror financing gave room for Tillerson to make the case to Trump that at least for Washington, the US concerns were largely addressed, and the outstanding differences between Qatar and its neighbours had become a distraction," said Andrew Bowen, who studies the at the conservative

In a fresh push to resolve the dispute, the is sending Tim Lenderking, the top State Department for the Persian Gulf, and retired Marine Corps Gen to the region to meet with officials from the countries involved in the dispute.

The renewed US involvement comes as Trump prepares for a string of visits by leaders from the feuding nations. Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, will visit in mid-March, and the UAE's Crown of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, is expected in the coming weeks as well.

Trump spoke by phone this week with both leaders, as well as with Qatar's ruling emir, Sheikh Thani. The issued nearly identical descriptions of all three calls, saying Trump had discussed "a range of security and economic issues" without mentioning whether the regional crisis even came up.

First Published: Fri, March 02 2018. 17:11 IST
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