Pompeo thanks Saudi crown prince for supporting UN Yemen envoy Griffiths during Middle East tour

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seen during a news conference with Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah (not pictured) in Kuwait City. (Reuters)
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Mike Pompeo and Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah exchange a signed document in Kuwait City. (AP)
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Mike Pompeo and Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah are seen during a news conference in Kuwait City. (AP)
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Mike Pompeo (L) and Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah give a joint press conference in Kuwait City. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2019

Pompeo thanks Saudi crown prince for supporting UN Yemen envoy Griffiths during Middle East tour

  • Said he would discuss "strategic dialogue" and the need to combat "the threat posed by Iran"
  • Stops include Kuwait, Israel and Lebanon

LONDON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for supporting the efforts of the UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths during his stop in Kuwait on a Middle East tour.

Speaking on Wednesday in Kuwait City, Pompeo said he and the crown prince both agreed on the need for both parties in the Yemeni conflict to commit to the regulations of the Sweden agreement of 2018.

Pompeo is visiting the region to bolster a united front against Iran, kicking off his regional trip in Kuwait where he met Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

Pompeo told reporters on the flight from the US that he would discuss "strategic dialogue" and the need to combat "the threat posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran" with leaders in the region.

After Kuwait Pompeo will fly to Israel before heading to Lebanon.

Pompeo is also pushing for a greater role for the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a US-sponsored Arab NATO aimed at uniting Washington's Arab allies against Tehran.

"We all have the same set of threats, threats from Al-Qaeda, from Daesh, threats from the Islamic Republic of Iran," Pompeo said at a joint press conference with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah.

Pompeo expressed hope that a regional rift between Gulf states and Qatar would abate, saying that resolving the issue would be in the region's best interests.

The foreign minister of Kuwait said he had also discussed with Pompeo the Gulf dispute, as well as the ongoing situations in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah said: "We hope the plan will take into account the situation in the region and all the relevant parties.

"We believe the strong relationship between the United States and several countries will lead to an acceptable resolution to all parties and to reaching a political solution that has been long waited for."

Pompeo said his talks on Wednesday also focused on enhancing defence and cybersecurity cooperation with Kuwait.

(With Agencies)

US official predicts Qatar will eventually normalize ties with Israel

Updated 56 min 34 sec ago

US official predicts Qatar will eventually normalize ties with Israel

CHICAGO: Despite strong Qatari criticism of the Abraham Accords between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, US State Department officials said they expect Qatar to eventually normalize relations with Israel, though they could not provide a timetable.

During a teleconference briefing Thursday morning, Timothy Lenderking, deputy assistant secretary of state for Arabian Gulf affairs, reminded attendees that Qatar had been the first Gulf nation to allow Israel to open an office in it capital, Doha.

Lenderking suggested Qatar was playing a more positive role than Turkey, which has publicly denounced normalization, although Qatari officials in recent days have said they would not normalize ties with Israel until the resolution of the Palestinian question.

“Qatar also engages with Israel and does so openly, and has done off and on for a number of years. We can point to Qatar’s resolution of a ceasefire here with Hamas and Israel two weeks ago: An excellent example of Qatari boutique diplomacy where they can use their influence and bring about a better situation,” Lenderking insisted.

“Our experience with Qataris who work on that file is that they are very open about those engagements with Israel. They have developed positive relationships with the Israeli officials involved and so we think there is a lot to build on. Every country will move at its own pace at normalization, and according to their own criteria. But we are eager for that to happen sooner rather than later because that does put more building blocks into the region for peace and stability.”

Criticism of the peace accords by Qatar’s state-controlled news media has been harsh, and news reports in the past year have shone a bright spotlight on Qatar’s ties to terrorist organizations, including alleged involvement in funding terrorist attacks that have taken American lives.

Lenderking brushed off controversies surrounding any terrorist ties, which include several lawsuits that name Qatar’s royal family as funding attacks that took the lives or injured as many as 10 Americans in Israel.

A Boston lawsuit filed by six contractors alleged that Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani, the brother of Qatar’s ruling Emir Sheikh Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, ordered them to kill rivals in the US and in Bahrain.

Originally filed in Florida in June 2019 and re-filed in Boston in January 2020, the individuals claimed Sheikh Khaled murdered an Indian national, threatened them all with death if they did not kill the Sheikh’s rivals, and directed a campaign of computer hacking of his racing car industry rivals in the US and Bahrain.  

In another lawsuit, filed June 10, 2020, Qatar’s royal family was accused of funding violence by Hamas, resulting in the killing and maiming of 10 Americans.

The lawsuit filed in New York City accuses several Qatari institutions, including Qatar Charity (formerly known as the Qatar Charitable Society) and Qatar National Bank, of funding violence against Americans in Israel, many with both dual US and Israeli citizenship.

Both lawsuits are in the US federal court system, moving towards public trials.

But Lenderking did not mention the lawsuits or other controversies, and instead offered a defense of Qatar’s position to not normalize relations with Israel.

“It is very much our hope and our intention that all of the countries of the Middle East, not just the Gulf, will normalize with Israel,” he said.

“We think a lot is made about Qatar’s being soft on terrorism. That isn’t actually accurate. We have a very vigorous terrorism engagement with Qatar that I would say has stepped up and got stronger in the last couple of years partly because of the embargo and because of strong US engagement focusing on key areas that may have been weaknesses in the Qatari system before. We know there is more room for improvement. We are confident we are going to see continued improvement over the course of the next year.”

Lenderking added Qatar had tied its criticism to resolving the Palestinian conflict, as have many other Arab nations have done.

“Of course, we have seen the reaction for the Palestinians to the normalization efforts,” Lenderking said. “It is very much our hope that the Palestinians, rather than being discouraged and deflated by this will find it as an opportunity and work with us to return to the negotiating table. It remains a priority for the US.”

On June 5, 2017, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed all diplomatic relations with Qatar and banned their airlines and ships from using GCC airspace or sea routes.

Lenderking argued if the UAE and Bahrain could normalize ties with Israel, the rift between the GCC and Qatar could be resolved, too.

“The future from our point of view looks very bright. There is still the menace of Iran. And I think we need … the Gulf countries to join together and unify to end the Gulf rift and focus more on the common challenges and common threats,” Lenderking advised, adding that the US would not push Qatar to sign a normalization with Israel.

“We didn’t pressure the Emirates to sign with Israel. We didn’t pressure Bahrain to sign with Israel. They are doing this of their own accord recognizing their own national interests,” Lenderking said.

“We do anticipate and hope other countries will be coming forward in the near future. The Abraham Accords have shown potential to ignite new diplomatic possibilities and partnerships.”