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Pompeo says it's 'time to find a solution' to Gulf dispute

US Secretary of State insists Gulf rift be solved so countries can instead focus on countering Iranian activity in the Middle East
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomes Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani at third annual US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue on 14 September (AFP)
By MEE staff in Washington

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed for a solution to the three-year rift between the Gulf state of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, saying the Trump administration was eager to see it resolved.

Speaking at the third Qatari-American Strategic Dialogue on Monday with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, Pompeo said it was important to concentrate on countering Iranian activity in the Middle East.

"To keep our focus on this work and to close the door to increased Iranian meddling, it's past time to find a solution to the Gulf rift," Pompeo said.

"The Trump administration is eager to see this dispute resolved and to open Qatar's air and land borders currently blocked by other Gulf states. I look forward to progress on this issue."

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The dispute dates from 2017 when the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar, severing diplomatic and transport ties and accusing it of supporting "terrorism".

Qatar vehemently denies all allegations.

The boycotting nations set 13 demands, including closing Al Jazeera Media Network, shuttering a Turkish military base, downgrading ties with Iran, and cutting links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Since then, Qatar has restored full diplomatic ties with Iran with which it shares a massive offshore gas field that provides the peninsular nation with its wealth.

Al-Thani said that Doha remained committed to "confronting issues that matter not only to our two nations [Qatar and the US] but also to the wider stability of the Middle East and neighbouring regions".

"Despite regional challenges, including the ongoing blockade against us, our collaboration has continuously strengthened."

President Donald Trump, who has close relations with Saudi and Emirati leaders, initially sided against Qatar, but in recent months has stepped up diplomacy in the Gulf ahead of November's election.

Last week, the State Department's top diplomat for the Middle East, David Schenker, said there could be some progress within weeks in resolving the rift, citing signs of "flexibility" in negotiations.

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