Trump praises Qatar for 'counter-terrorism' efforts

#GulfTensions

US president previously accused Qatar of funding militant groups 'at a very high level'

Trump and Qatar's Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani in Riyadh in May 2017 (AFP)
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Tuesday 16 January 2018 12:40 UTC
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In an apparent shift in the White House's stance on the Gulf crisis, US President Donald Trump on Monday thanked the ruler of Qatar for "action to counter-terrorism and extremism in all forms".

Last year, Trump accused Doha of funding militant groups, saying the Gulf nation has historically supported terrorism "at a very high level".

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar in June over allegations that Doha was courting Iran and fomenting instability in the region, charges that it denies.

Shortly after the crisis began, Trump appeared to take responsibility for the regional sanctions against Qatar.

"We had a decision to make, do we take the easy road or do we finally take a hard but necessary action," Trump said in a news conference on 9 June. "We have to stop the funding of terrorism. I decided... the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding."

During the same period of time, the Pentagon and US State Department made statements favourable of Qatar and called for ending the blockade against it.

But Trump lauded the Saudi efforts against Qatar.

"So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the king and 50 countries already paying off," Trump had said in a series of Twitter posts on 6 June. "They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!"

In September, the US president offered to mediate a “quick deal” to end the diplomatic impasse.

A White House statement on the call with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said on Monday that Trump praised Qatar for “being one of the few countries to move forward on a bilateral memorandum of understanding” against funding terrorism.

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"The leaders discussed areas in which the United States and Qatar can partner to bring more stability to the region, counter malign Iranian influence, and defeat terrorism," the White House said.

The statement did not address the rift between Qatar and its Arab neighbours, but it said that Trump "reiterated his support for a strong, united Gulf Cooperation Council that is focused on countering regional threats".

The Gulf feud has divided the GCC, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE signing their own bilateral agreement late last year.