Wed, Mar 07, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Gulf states planning to ease Saudi-led boycott of Qatar

The Guardian

Gulf states are studying plans to break the deadlock over the Saudi-led boycott of Qatar by persuading the two sides to agree to relax restrictions on civilian movements as the first step to a wider deal.

The dispute with Qatar is likely to be one of the major topics for discussion between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and British Prime Minister Theresa May when they meet in London today.

Britain has urged Saudi Arabia to lift the blockade, which has damaged economies across the Gulf, but has not brought Qatar to its knees nor led to a change in regime.

In what would be seen as a mutual goodwill gesture designed to lead to the end of the nine-month boycott of the nation by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Such a move would require Qatar’s neighbors to end the air blockade that has prevented Qatari flights from landing in their territory and using their airspace.

As many as 10,000 Gulf citizens, most with relations in neighboring states, have been affected by the land, sea and air restrictions.

Saudi and UAE leaders have urged the West not to regard the boycott as a family feud between Gulf states, but as a serious move against Qatar’s alleged championing of extremist political movements in the Middle East.

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said the nation does not want the dispute settled by anyone, but the Gulf states, and that the pressure of the boycott was forcing Qatar to change its approach to funding terrorism.

US President Donald Trump is to have a chance to test Saudi flexibility when Salman meets him in Washington after his UK visit today and tomorrow.

In an attempt to convince the West that Qatar has a coherent alternative vision for a cooperative and stable Middle East that rivals the adventurism of the crown prince, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has set out plans for a Middle East security pact incorporating not just Gulf states, but also other states in the region.

The plan is intended to counter what Qatar describes as the unilateral adventurist foreign policy of Saudi Arabia.

Qatari Government Communication Office Director Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani told reporters that the pact “would be a way of ensuring that what happened to Qatar does not happen anywhere else.”

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