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Trump tells Gulf leaders: End quarrel with Qatar or no summit

March 2, 2018 at 4:22 pm

US President Donald Trump [Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency]

US President Donald Trump has told leaders of Gulf nations to end their quarrel with Qatar or risk seeing the Camp David meeting cancelled.

A summit of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was scheduled for May at the prestigious presidential retreat in Maryland. But according members of the Trump administration, the summit could be scuttled unless Qatar’s neighbours, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain along with Egypt, who is not a member of the GCC, end their nearly year-long spat.

According to reports in the New York Times, a pair of Trump administration emissaries will deliver the message next week as they crisscross the Gulf in a renewed bid to try to end the crisis.

If this is indeed an attempt by Trump to put his foot down it would signify a significant change in his position having previously taken a view that echoed the stance of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. The US State Department on the other hand held a different view to Trump. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well as Secretary of Defence James Mattis were both said to have been “surprised” and “shocked” by the sudden move to blockade and punish US ally Qatar.

Realists in the US administration took the view that the Saudis had picked an unnecessary fight at a time when the administration had gotten everyone in the Gulf on the same page in forming a common front against Iran.

Read: Nuclear experts warn Trump over Saudi nuclear deal

Contrast the two positions; Trump’s continual flip-flopping over both Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the informed view of the State Department, it seems US representatives directly involved with the issues affecting the region have come on top. Officials within the foreign affairs community in Washington reiterated their view of the support given by Qatar against Daesh and other transnational terrorist groups. US counter-terrorism co-ordinator Nathan Sales, told the Gulf Times, America desires to continue the strong relations between the two countries, while also stressing the need to work towards a solution to end the Gulf crisis.

It’s not clear, however, if the blockading countries would be willing to attend such a summit when they have spent nearly a year bashing Qatar, cutting diplomatic ties and imposed sanctions. Conceding to Trump’s demand now may make them appear as though they have capitulated.

That said, the Gulf nations’ need to please the US president has not gone un-noticed as some observers point out that “if there’s one trait that unifies Qatar and its neighbours, it’s an unwavering desire to show they’re simpatico with Trump”.

On a related issue, the US administration’s desire to end the crises in the Gulf will put the country at odds with Israel. Earlier this week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected dialogue with Qatar while stressing the need for dialogue with the UAE.