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Saudi Arabia foreign minister sees path toward ending rift with Qatar

The rift in relations started in June 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt abruptly severed diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar

Saudi Arabia | Qatar

Vivian Nereim & David Wainer | Bloomberg 

Saudi Arabia, Qatar
National flag of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Shutterstock

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister signaled progress may be underway toward resolving the three-year-old rift with its neighbor Qatar, following a meeting in Washington with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

“We continue to be willing to engage with our Qatari brothers, and we hope that they are as committed to that engagement,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in a virtual discussion hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Thursday. “But we do need to address the legitimate security concerns of the quartet, and I think there is a path toward that” with a solution “in the relatively near future.”

The rift in relations started in June 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt abruptly severed diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar, saying its government supported militant groups and had meddled in their internal affairs for years. has vehemently denied those claims. In June, Kuwait, a mediator between and its quartet of Gulf Arab neighbors, said there was progress toward resolving the standoff. Yet the crisis continues.

Prince Faisal visited Washington for a US-Saudi strategic dialogue at the State Department on Wednesday that included discussions about relations with Israel, the US’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and the war in Yemen.

The Trump administration has leaned on the Saudis to normalize relations with Israel, as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to do. But Prince Faisal said the focus should remain on Palestinian-Israeli peace talks before any formal rapprochement between Israel and

He said isn’t looking for conflict with Iran but argued that Trump’s maximum pressure campaign is working, weakening the regime and depleting it of the resources needed to prop up its proxies in the region. He said the goal of such pressure must be to bring Iran back to the negotiating table for a “JCPOA ++”, a reference to 2015 Iran deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Trump quit the accord in 2018.Although the event’s moderator observed that might face more pressure if Democrat Joe Biden wins the November presidential election, Prince Faisal said that the Saudi-US relationship will endure any domestic changes in the US He acknowledged the US is undergoing a unique presidential campaign.

“The US is a robust democracy going through a very interesting process,” he said.

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First Published: Sat, October 17 2020. 01:13 IST