Top US diplomat wraps up Gulf tour, but impasse grinds on

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani address a press conference in Doha on July 11. (AP)
Updated 13 July 2017
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Top US diplomat wraps up Gulf tour, but impasse grinds on

DUBAI: The top US diplomat wrapped up his first foray in shuttle diplomacy on Thursday with little sign of progress in breaking a deadlock between Qatar and the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATI) comprising Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to the tiny, US-allied Gulf nation for a second time for a lunch meeting with 37-year-old Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani before heading back to Washington later in the day.
Tillerson and his Qatari counterpart appeared before cameras in the capital, Doha, but ignored reporters’ questions before he left.
“Hope to see you again under better circumstances,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir’s brother, said, seeing Tillerson off at the airport in Doha.
Tillerson, a former Exxon Mobil CEO with deep experience in the oil-rich Gulf, has been shuttling between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and mediator Kuwait since Monday trying to repair a rift that is dividing some of America’s most important Middle East allies.
The diplomatic slack now appears likely to be picked up again by the Europeans, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian heading to the region at the weekend.
A French diplomatic source in Paris said that Le Drian would try “to recreate confidence, create an interest of all parties to engage in de-escalation.”
“We must find a way out.”
Le Drian’s visit will follow similar trips made by his counterparts from Germany and Britain in recent weeks.
Officials have downplayed expectations and say any resolution could be months away.
His clearest achievement has been to secure a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Qatar to strengthen its counterterrorism efforts and address shortfalls in policing terrorism funding.
That deal goes to the core of the ATQ’s complaints against the natural gas-rich state: That it provides support for extremist groups.
The ATQ argued the pressure and demands it placed on Qatar helped lead to the counterterrorism pact, but it said the agreement does not go far enough to end the dispute.
It is holding fast to its insistence that Qatar bow to a 13-point list of demands that includes shutting down Qatar’s flagship Al Jazeera network and other news outlets, cutting ties with radical groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, limiting Qatar’s ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the Gulf country.
“No wavering on the 13 demands” the headline of the Abu Dhabi government-linked Al-Ittihad newspaper read on Thursday, referring to the list.
Qatar has rejected the demands, saying that agreeing to them wholesale would undermine its sovereignty.
It is intent on waiting out the crisis despite its neighbors’ attempts to isolate it.
Shipping companies have set up alternate routes to get supplies in without going through the blockading countries, and flag carrier Qatar Airways continues to operate its 200-strong fleet by detouring over friendlier airspace.
The government has said it is covering a tenfold increase in shipping costs for essentials. Ally Turkey and nearby Iran have also boosted exports to Qatar, and the country has even taken to importing cows to meet a dairy shortfall caused by the closure of its only land border with Saudi Arabia.
Still, the rift is causing hardship for some.
“For public consumption at least, the US State Department is trying to send out a signal that it has worked hard with its three allies — Saudi, UAE, Qatar — to try to find a mutually agreeable solution,” Christopher Davidson, an expert on Middle East politics at Britain’s Durham University, told AFP.
“Britain and now France are also trying to do much the same. Underneath the surface however... the US — including Tillerson — likely sees significant strategic and lucrative benefits to any long-running stand-off between these states.”


Israel destroys house of Palestinian charged with killing soldier

Updated 50 min 44 sec ago
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Israel destroys house of Palestinian charged with killing soldier

  • Israeli forces arrived at the El Amari camp before dawn on Saturday, sealed off the four-story Abu Humaid house and destroyed it
  • Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014

EL AMARI REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank: Israeli forces on Saturday demolished the family home of a Palestinian charged with killing an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank, the military and witnesses said.
Israel says Islam Abu Humaid, 32, threw a 40 pound (18 kg) marble plate from a rooftop, killing an Israeli special forces sergeant, Ronen Lubarsky, 20, during a May arrest raid in El Amari refugee camp in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.
Israeli forces arrived at the El Amari camp before dawn on Saturday, sealed off the four-story Abu Humaid house and destroyed it, the military said in a statement.
The Abu Humaid family home has been destroyed before and rebuilt. Two other Abu Humaid sons are in Israeli custody, charged with the killings of five Israelis, and another two face lengthy incarceration for serious security offenses.
A sixth Abu Humaid son was killed by Israeli forces in 1994 after himself being involved in a deadly ambush against an Israeli intelligence officer in the West Bank.
According to the indictment against him, Islam Abu Humaid told interrogators that he wanted to avenge the injury of one of his brothers in a previous Israeli army raid.
“What can we do? This is an enemy who thinks that by doing such actions they will terrorize us and make us fear them,” said Islam’s mother, Latifa Abu Humaid.
“On the contrary, our animosity becomes stronger, and with it our perseverance and strength.”
Israeli rights groups have criticized family-home demolitions of Palestinian attackers as acts of vengeance and collective punishment.
Israel’s Supreme Court has largely upheld the demolition policy. Israeli officials have termed it both punitive and a deterrence to potential attackers.
“The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) will continue operating in order to thwart terror and maintain security in the area,” the military said.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned the demolition.
Tensions flared this week in the West Bank with a string of Palestinian attacks that killed an Israeli baby and two Israeli soldiers and Israeli forces shot dead four suspected Palestinian assailants.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that in response to the attacks, slated demolitions would be sped up.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014.