Trump threatens to cancel GCC summit if Qatar blockade not solved

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The US President warned a planned six-country Gulf Cooperation Council summit will only take place in Camp David if the Qatar blockade is lifted and the crisis is resolved, Associated Press reported on Friday.

Donald Trump is expected to host Gulf leaders at the prestigious presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains in May.

However US officials suggest the meeting will be cancelled if Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain – who have imposed an air, sea and land blockade on Qatar since June 2017 – do not take steps toward resolving the crisis.

Last week, senior US officials said Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan will visit Trump in March and April to discuss setting up a Gulf Cooperation Council summit later this year.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies launched a diplomatic boycott of Qatar and closed their frontiers last year, accusing the gas-rich emirate of cosying up to Iran and sponsoring Islamist groups.

Doha has categorically denied the charges and accused the anti-Doha alliance of attempting to curtail its sovereignty

“We would hope the dispute is resolved before the summit to allow maximum focus on other strategic concerns like Iran,” a US official reportedly said.

Last month, the US praised Qatar for its counterterrorism cooperation and warned that the Gulf rift has hurt the fight against extremism.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis have been working to bring the dispute to an end and bind both Qatar and its opponents into a deeper mutual alliance.

Qatar plans to expand the major military base used by US forces to make it more comfortable for Americans, as the tiny gas-rich nation seeks to hedge closer US ties.

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Early in the Gulf crisis, in which four of Qatar’s neighbours accused it of fomenting regional unrest and cut ties, President Donald Trump sided with Saudi Arabia and the others and echoed their claim that Qatar funds terrorism.

As the stalemate has lingered on, the Trump administration has softened that rhetoric while praising Qatar for modest steps taken to address US concerns.

Published on 3 March 2018

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