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US hopes to name Qatar as major non-NATO ally, official says

(From L) Qatar's Deptuy Foreign Minister Mohamed Bin Abdullah Al-Rumaihi, Kuwait's Sheikh Thamer Ali Al-Sabah, President of National Security Bureau, and Bahrain Undersecretary for regional and GCC Affairs Hamad Ahmed Al-Amer attend the second day of a Foreign Affairs session at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 2, 2014 in Brussels [JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images]
(From L) Qatar's Deptuy Foreign Minister Mohamed Bin Abdullah Al-Rumaihi, Kuwait's Sheikh Thamer Ali Al-Sabah, President of National Security Bureau, and Bahrain Undersecretary for regional and GCC Affairs Hamad Ahmed Al-Amer attend the second day of a Foreign Affairs session at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 2, 2014 in Brussels [JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images]

The United States hopes to move forward with naming Qatar as a major non-NATO ally, a status that provides foreign nations with benefits in defense trade and security cooperation, a senior US official said on Thursday, Reuters reported.

“We’re going to move ahead, we hope, with designating Qatar a major non-NATO ally,” Timothy Lenderking, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Arabian Gulf affairs, told reporters in a conference call.

US and Qatari officials, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, met in Washington earlier this week.

“Major non-NATO ally” (MNNA) status gives a country preferential access to US military equipment and technology, including free surplus material, expedited export processing and prioritized cooperation on training.

READ: Turkey’s top diplomat, NATO chief talk East Med over phone

Qatar’s Government Communications Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Currently 17 countries have MNNA status, including Gulf Arab states Kuwait and Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Qatar, host of the largest US military facility in the Middle East, has been locked in a dispute with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt since 2017.

Washington has strong ties with all the states involved and sees the rift as a threat to efforts to contain Iran. It has pushed for a united Gulf front.

US officials have recently expressed a desire to sell the F-35 stealth war plane to the UAE after it agreed last month to normalise ties with Israel. However, Israeli officials have objected, citing US policy for Israel to maintain a military advantage in the region.

READ: Qatar rejects normalisation with Israel before solving Palestinian situation

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