Trump and Sheikh Tamim to discuss issues of mutual interest

The two leaders are due to discuss the expansion of the US base in Qatar and conflict in Syria, among other topics.

    The US airbase, which currently houses some 10,000 US military personnel, is the largest overseas US military base in the Arab world [Jonathan Ernst /Reuters]
    The US airbase, which currently houses some 10,000 US military personnel, is the largest overseas US military base in the Arab world [Jonathan Ernst /Reuters]

    Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is due to meet US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC, on Tuesday to discuss ways of enhancing political coordination between the two countries, strengthening security as well as economic relations.

    In a statement to official news agency, QNA, Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatari ambassador to the United States, said the two leaders would also discuss the expansion of the US base in Qatar.

    Al Udeid US airbase - home of the US Air Force Central Command - currently houses some 10,000 US military personnel, serving as the largest overseas US military base in the Arab world. 

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    QNA quoted Sheikh Meshal as saying that Trump and Sheikh Tamim will also discuss "the conflict in Syria, the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, and steps towards rebuilding Iraq. 

    "These issues are very important to Qatar, and we know that the US administration takes these issues very seriously," he added. 

    Commenting on the Gulf crisis, Sheikh Meshal said: "The US has been attempting to mediate in the crisis, and we have welcomed and supported these efforts since the start." 

    "We are committed to resolving the crisis with our neighbours through dialogue in an effort to lift the illegal blockade," he continued, in reference to the blockade imposed on Qatar since June 2017 by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. 

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    The four countries cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposed a land, sea and air blockade after accusing it of supporting "terrorism" and "extremism".

    Qatar has strongly denied the allegations.

    "We welcome all efforts by the US to mediate the crisis so that a quick solution can be found," said Sheikh Meshal. 

    Little progress

    According to US Ambassador Gerald Feierstein, now director for Gulf affairs and government relations at the Middle East Institute in Washington, there has been little progress in resolving the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

    "The Saudis and Emiratis have been clear that unless the Qataris are willing to accept their demands that they weren't really interested in negotiating," Feierstein told Al Jazeera. 

    "The Qataris weren't really interested. Right now, it basically looks like both sides are kind of dug in, and nobody is moving," he added. 

    Earlier this month, Reuters news agency reported that a Gulf summit that was scheduled for early April in Washington, DC, had been postponed to September. 

    According to Reuters, the decision came as a result of President Trump's busy schedule of diplomatic meetings and the absence of a secretary of state, until CIA director Mike Pompeo is officially sworn in.

    Feierstein said, "there hasn't really been any progress, and so the purpose of a summit wouldn't be accomplished at this time". 

    "The key element of Trump's statements issued by the White House was reiterating that the United States wants to see a negotiated settlement of this dispute," he added.

    "So, whether or not there is a summit, the summit is neither-here-nor-there. There doesn't have to be a summit in order to resolve the problem, and if the US.remains engaged and the U.S. continues to make clear that the US wants to see a solution, that's really the important thing."

    Additional reporting by William Roberts in Washington, DC. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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