Reuters: Jared Kushner to attend GCC Summit after Qatar dispute breakthrough

US official tells Reuters that Jared Kushner helped negotiate the agreement to reopen borders with Qatar. (AFP/File)
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Updated 04 January 2021

Reuters: Jared Kushner to attend GCC Summit after Qatar dispute breakthrough

Reuters: Jared Kushner to attend GCC Summit after Qatar dispute breakthrough
  • US official tells Reuters that Jared Kushner helped negotiate the agreement to reopen borders with Qatar

WASHINGTON/RIYADH: A breakthrough has been reached in Qatar’s three-year-old dispute with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries and an agreement aimed at ending their rift is to be signed in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, a senior Trump administration official said.
The development is the latest in a series of Middle East deals sought by Washington — the others involving Israel and Arab states — aimed at building a united front against Iran.
As part of the deal, Saudi Arabia will reopen its airspace and land and sea border to Qatar as of Monday, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah said on Kuwait TV ahead of a Gulf Arab summit in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the annual gathering of Gulf leaders would unite Gulf ranks “in the face of challenges facing the region.”
Qatar’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, will attend, the royal court said. The US official said the Saudi crown prince and Qatari emir would sign the deal.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017 accusing it of supporting terrorism. Qatar denies it and says the embargo aims to undermine its sovereignty.
While Saudi Arabia made clear it intended to lift the blockade, the other three countries did not, but the Trump official said “it’s our expectation” they would also join in lifting the blockade. Under the emerging agreement, Qatar will suspend lawsuits related to the blockade, the official said.
All of the countries involved in the deals are US allies. Qatar hosts the region’s largest US military base, Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE host US troops.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, assigned to work on the dispute by US President Donald Trump, helped negotiate the deal and was working the phones on it until the wee hours of Monday morning, the official said.
When in December Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said a resolution to the dispute seemed within reach, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a Twitter post said he hoped Gulf reconciliation “contributes to stability and political and economic development for all peoples of our region.”
Kushner, joined by Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook, a special State Department adviser, were flying to the Saudi Arabian city of Al-Ula to attend the ceremony, the US official said.
If the deal holds, the Gulf dispute will be added to a string of diplomatic achievements of the Kushner team, a list that includes normalization deals last year between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, has been working on more normalization deals between Israel and Arab countries but may run out of time with President-elect Joe Biden due to take over the presidency on Jan. 20.
“It’s just a massive breakthrough,” the official said. “The blockade will be lifted. It will allow for travel among the countries as well as goods. It will lead to more stability in the region.”
Diplomats in the region have said that Saudi Arabia was keen by pushing a deal to resolve the dispute to demonstrate to Biden that they are peacemakers and open to dialogue.
The United States has about 10,000 troops in Qatar, which is home to Al Udeid Air Base. There are thousands more troops in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.


Lebanon MPs accuse Aoun of ‘acting as a party’

Deputies in the Lebanese Parliament have accused President Michel Aoun of acting “as a party, not as a president entrusted with the constitution.” (AFP/File Photo)
Deputies in the Lebanese Parliament have accused President Michel Aoun of acting “as a party, not as a president entrusted with the constitution.” (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 7 min 35 sec ago

Lebanon MPs accuse Aoun of ‘acting as a party’

Deputies in the Lebanese Parliament have accused President Michel Aoun of acting “as a party, not as a president entrusted with the constitution.” (AFP/File Photo)
  • Formation of opposition against Lebanese president depends on Christian bloc

BEIRUT: Deputies in the Lebanese Parliament have accused President Michel Aoun of acting “as a party, not as a president entrusted with the constitution.”

On Saturday, MP Anwar Al-Khalil said that Aoun’s media office’s statement on Friday “undermines the Lebanese people’s minds and destroys the hope of forming an important government. It is also a digression from obstinacy and stubbornness.”

Friday’s statement said Aoun was a “partner in choosing ministers and distributing ministerial portfolios.”

Al-Khalil reminded Aoun that “the constitution named you as president, a symbol of national unity and a protector of the constitution.”

“Your advisers are making you one team. Enough bickering! Support the whole country and save it from collapse,” Al-Khalil said.

Aoun defended himself and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), MP Gebran Bassil, against the accusation of obstructing the formation of a government, which raised tension between him and Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri.

MP Hadi Abu Al-Hassan said: “Hariri is faced with a crippling process in order to force him to resign.” He added that the president and the FPM “do not want the return of Hariri as prime minister without Bassil in the government.”

He criticized Aoun, saying: “The covenant is unconscious. It lives somewhere else, as attested to by all, and through his practices, he wants to monopolize everything.”

“The problem in the country is the non-presence of a conscious central authority that is aware of what is happening. It is absent and today, we are reaping what was sown,” he said.

Former MP Mustafa Alloush, who is also the Future Movement’s vice president, said the president’s objective was “to make Bassil afloat again and move the presidency to his son-in-law. It is not the rescue of the republic.”

Alloush said that the new government should “lend a helping hand to establishments and countries. Lebanon might be able to convince the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to have a loan, however, if that is not followed by CEDRE (Conference for Economic Development and Reform through Enterprises) and aid from the Gulf and the US, we will have increased our debt to the IMF.”

He said the other team, specifically Hezbollah, was not interested in the rescue operation. “Aoun and the FPM rely on Hezbollah to justify their stubbornness to obstruct the formation of the government, with the aim of making Bassil president.” He said Bassil was subjected to US and personal sanctions that were neither accepted by the Gulf nor internationally and “they are trying to impose a de facto government.”

On the calls to form an opposition against Aoun and his political team, Alloush said: “There is a lot of talk, but if these parties agree on the idea, they disagree on the details.”

Abdel-Sattar Al-Laz, adviser to former prime minister, Tammam Salam, told Arab News: “A meeting was held a while ago at Salam’s house. It included former heads of government, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, and addressed the possible scenarios to solve the stalemate in the country.”

Forming an opposition was difficult at the moment, Al-Laz said. “Any new opposition needs Christian and Shiite participation and cannot be limited to Sunni forces and a Druze party. There is a need for a Christian team such as the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb, and those have their personal agendas. The opposition cannot be formed of independent people. It is required to have driving forces with a real representation.”

“The ball is in the court of the Christian partner. Can they form an opposition against the president to ask for his removal or pressure him to resign? Such opposition should be headed by the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai, and I rule out its formation since it will affect the position of the Maronite presidency. In that light, there is no hope except to wait for change in the region, otherwise, we are facing a dead end.”