Now is a promising time to begin to heal Gulf rift

Now is a promising time to begin to heal Gulf rift

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On Tuesday in AlUla, a city in northwestern Saudi Arabia, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait attended a ceremony that marked a significant step toward healing the rift between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors. In advance of the GCC leaders’ summit, in a show of good faith airspace restrictions were lifted and sea and air borders were reopened. The Trump administration, working closely with leaders throughout the region, worked hard to reach this step.

This event is yet another example of the realpolitik approach that has, of late, been adopted by the region with the encouragement of US President Donald Trump, along with the able assistance of Jared Kushner and his team. As with the Abraham Accords, this achievement represents the hard work of courageous leaders who recognize that perfect must not be the enemy of the good. These leaders understand that, despite the differences they have not yet fully resolved, working together is better for the region.

This achievement represents the hard work of courageous leaders who recognize that perfect must not be the enemy of the good.

Jason D. Greenblatt

Tuesday’s event is yet another triumph for the foreign-policy approach of President Trump and his administration, which includes patience, perseverance, respect for those who are involved and the issues they are concerned about, as well as not preaching or dictating an outcome that the region is unwilling to accept or embrace. As Trump said when he visited Saudi Arabia in May 2017, his goal was not “to lecture (or) to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, (his goal was) to offer partnership — based on shared interests and values — to pursue a better future for us all.”

The Middle East is an extraordinarily complicated region with so much promise. Each day I participate in video chats with businessmen and women throughout the region (often including Israelis) and our conversations are peppered with enthusiasm for what they see unfolding. They see a region of growth, vibrancy, and opportunity. They look up to their leadership and the goals their leadership is striving to achieve. Over the past four years, I have been blessed to have developed deep relationships with many people in this region — both personal and professional. The personal ones are, of course, the most cherished. We have broken bread together, celebrated happy occasions, gotten to know one another’s families, customs, holidays, dreams, and aspirations. It has been a true blessing. I continue to marvel at where they are heading.

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Each of these countries has its own approach on how to achieve their future plans, but they also recognize that they are stronger working together than apart. Undoubtedly there will be bumps in the road and occasional setbacks. But with the strong leadership in place in the region, I firmly believe we have much to look forward to in the Middle East in the coming years. This region, especially its enthusiastic, talented, younger generation, is also poised to make a tremendous mark on the rest of the world.

Tuesday’s ceremony removed a significant stumbling block from the path toward those goals. It may be that not all of the issues have yet been resolved and that personal relationships are yet to be rebuilt. It may be that these countries do not agree on some of the important issues of the day, including the Iranian regime and the threat it poses to the region. Despite these differences and challenges, it is time to rebuild the bonds between these neighbors and hopefully others in the region too, including Israel. It is time to continue to strengthen existing partnerships and to build new ones, not only in security, combating extremism and fostering commerce, but in friendship and culture. Tuesday’s achievement recognizes that, while leaders cannot solve all of the region’s problems at the same time and not everything is perfect, significant progress can be made and opportunities must be seized.

This is a promising time for the rift to begin to heal. A wave of optimism has swept the region over the past few years and will continue into the next few years. I congratulate each of the leaders and countries that took part in Tuesday’s summit and wish them continued success on the path toward their objectives.

• Jason D. Greenblatt was the White House’s Middle East envoy for nearly three years.
Twitter: @GreenblattJD

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