US ready to work with Qatar to ‘deter’ external threats
Top US and Qatari officials express concern about the harmful security, economic and human impacts of the Gulf crisis.
Senior US officials have said Washington was ready to “deter and confront” external threats to Qatar’s territorial integrity at a meeting between leading representatives from the two countries.
Officials including US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis met their Qatari counterparts Foreign Minister Mohammed Al Thani and Defence Minister Khalid al-Attiyah in Washington on Tuesday.
The meeting was the first session of the United States-Qatar Strategic Dialogue, which is aimed at strengthening security ties between the two.
A joint statement published by the US Department of State and Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said the countries were committed to promoting peace and stability and countering the “scourge of terrorism”.
“The United States expressed its readiness to work jointly with Qatar to deter and confront an external threat to Qatar’s territorial integrity that is inconsistent with the United Nations Charter,” the statement continued.
“Qatar and the United States discussed the Gulf crisis and expressed the need for an immediate resolution which respects Qatar’s sovereignty.
“The two governments expressed concern about the harmful security, economic and human impacts of the crisis.”
Officials also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on boosting cooperation in different areas, including combatting human trafficking and forced labour.
In June last year, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt broke off diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea, and air blockade of the Gulf state.
The quartet accused Qatar of supporting what they describe as “terrorist” groups and cosying up to their regional rival, Iran.
Doha vehemently denies the accusations and has rejected demands made by the states, such as shutting down media outlets, closing a Turkish military base in Qatar, paying reparations, and subjecting itself to monthly audits to ensure it is not violating any of the control measures imposed by the four states.
The meeting between Qatari and US officials comes just a few days after Qatar announced an expansion of a US airbase in its capital, Doha.
Al Udeid base is currently home to around 10,000 US troops and serves as the headquarters of the US Air Force Central Command.
Qatar is also one of the largest purchasers of US military equipment and a military sales agreement between the two countries is worth $24.7bn.