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Trump makes ending Gulf blockade of Qatar a ‘priority’ 

November 18, 2020 at 2:33 pm

US President Donald Trump in Erie, US on 21 October 2020 [Noah Riffe/Anadolu Agency]

The Trump administration is working to lift the Gulf blockade on Qatar in a last push for a diplomatic victory before the president leaves office, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said in an interview released on Monday. O’Brien is reported in The Hill as saying that there is a “possibility” of resolving the Gulf crisis. Qatar has been under a land, sea and air blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates since June 2017.

“I’d like to see that get done before — if we end up leaving office — I’d like to see that get done in the next 70 days,” explained O’Brien. “And I think there’s a possibility for it.”

Trump is said to be keen to have the Gulf dispute resolved in an effort to counter Iran. “It’s in America’s interest to have harmonious relationships within the [Gulf Cooperation Council] because that provides an important counterbalance to Iran,” said O’Brien. “It would open up the opportunity for more peace deals with Israel and [create] a real economic opportunity zone across the Middle East and even being able to take that out to other parts of the Muslim and the Arab world.”

O’Brien pointed out that resolving the crisis among the Gulf countries is a “priority” for the president and likened it to a family dispute. “This is really kind of a family dispute. And like family disputes, sometimes those are the hardest to solve. But we’d like to get all these cousins back together at the Thanksgiving table, so to speak. And it’s something we’re working on, and we’re going to keep working on it. As long as the president’s in office, it’s something that’ll be a priority.”

READ: There is no winner from the Gulf crisis

However, UAE officials have said that they have no desire to end the feud “anytime soon.” Abu Dhabi’s Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al-Otaiba, told Israel’s Channel 12, “I don’t think it gets resolved anytime soon simply because the introspection process did not occur, and they continue to play the victim and continue to pretend to be bullied, but did not address the root causes of the problem, and until you address the root causes of this problem, I do not think this is going to get solved.”

Al-Otaiba’s remark appears to suggest that the UAE has not carried out its own introspection over the blockade which has been judged to be a violation of international law. In July the UN’s top court ruled that the blockade against Qatar is illegal, in what was seen as a In a humiliating defeat for Saudi Arabia and its allies, with a 16-1 vote against them in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The UN has continued its appeal against the blockading countries to end their feud with Qatar. Last Thursday, the UN special rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures and human rights urged Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to drop sanctions against Qatar, insisting that it harmed Doha’s ability to enjoy several fundamental rights.