WASHINGTON: The US administration intensified its mediation efforts in the spat between Doha and its neighbors on Tuesday, as Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said in Washington that there “is no blockade” on Qatar.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hosted Al-Jubeir, while US Defense Secretary James Mattis will reportedly be meeting his Qatari counterpart Khalid Al-Attiyah on Wednesday.
Tillerson and Al-Jubeir met for over an hour at the State Department, and the standoff with Qatar took priority in the talks. Ahead of the meeting, Saudi Arabia’s first diplomat laid out his country’s approach to the escalation.
“There is no blockade of Qatar. Qatar is free to go. The ports are open, the airports are open,” Al-Jubeir said while standing next to Tillerson in the Benjamin Franklin room.
Al-Jubeir struck a defiant approach in explaining Saudi Arabia’s moves. “What we have done is we have denied them use of our airspace, and this is our sovereign right,” he said. “The limitation on the use of Saudi airspace is only limited to Qatar Airways or Qatari-owned aircraft, not anybody else.”
He added: “The seaports of Qatar are open. There is no blockade on them. Qatar can move goods in and out whenever they want. They just cannot use our territorial waters.”
Al-Jubeir also highlighted Riyadh’s latest measures to ease the restrictions to allow joint Saudi-Qatari families to be reunited, adding that Saudi Arabia would send humanitarian relief if needed.
Parallel to Al-Jubeir’s visit, Al-Attiyah arrived in Washington on Monday and is slated to meet Mattis on Wednesday. The US administration has been keen to prevent the diplomatic crisis having repercussions on the fight against Daesh and US defense operations in Doha.
Putin calls King Salman
King Salman received Tuesday a call from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
They reviewed bilateral relations and opportunities for their development in all fields. They also discussed the latest developments in the region and joint cooperation to combat extremism and terrorism, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).