Trump: US-Qatar ties ‘work extremely well’

US president welcomes Qatari emir to the White House, as months-long Gulf diplomatic crisis enters 11th month.

US President Donald Trump has praised his country’s ties with Qatar as he welcomed the Qatari emir to the White House for talks on a number of issues, including the months-long Gulf diplomatic crisis.

Speaking to reporters alongside Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Trump said on Tuesday that the US and Qatar “have been great friends in so many ways” and “are working very well together”.

“We are working on unity in that part of the Middle East and I think it’s working out very well; there are lot of good things happening,” added the US president.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain – all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5, 2017, and imposed a land, sea and air embargo, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”.

Qatar, also a GCC member, has repeatedly denied the allegations.

For his part, Sheikh Tamim hailed Trump’s role in trying to find a solution to the ongoing Gulf rift.

“I would like to thank the president for him being involved personally in solving the GCC crisis,” said Al-Thani.

“He’s been very helpful, he’s been supporting us during this blockade and I would also like to thank the American people for being very supportive.

“And his [Trump’s] role is very vital to end this crisis in our region,” Sheikh Tamim added. 

The two leaders also discussed the Syria war and Qatar’s role in combatting groups that sponsor “terrorism”.

“We do not and we will not tolerate people who fund terrorism,” said Sheikh Tamim, adding that the two countries were “cooperating to stop funding terrorism around the region”.

 Sheikh Tamim and Trump last met in September 2017 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Washington, DC, said Tuesday’s meeting was “crucial” for both leaders.

“It’s an opportunity for the emir of Qatar to press ahead for the immediate end to this crisis,” he said

The White House meeting comes after Sheikh Tamim met US Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday and hailed the strength of relations between the two countries.

“We are very proud of this expanding relation,” Sheikh Tamim said, speaking at the Pentagon.

“We are working together in the face of terrorism and we are looking at ways to develop this relationship,” he continued.

Qatar is a long-standing military ally of the US and host to the largest US airbase in the Middle East.

The US has approved a $300m sale of guided missiles to Qatar.

‘Crucial meeting’

Trump has offered to play a mediating role in trying to find a diplomatic solution to the GCC crisis, and some analysts believe that the US’ attitude towards Doha has changed in recent months, with a “dramatic shift in recognising Qatar as a major ally”. 

“There is more trust in Qatar as an ally, and the position of the US administration is much more in favour of the Qatari position in the crisis,” said Majed al-Ansari, professor of political science at Qatar University.

But there are also concerns that the US failure to solve the crisis could increase regional instability.

“What we have seen so far is that the crisis has brought in external actors such as Russia, Turkey and Iran into the region, which makes it even more dangerous because the instability there would increase if the US is perceived to lose influence and unable to solve the crisis within the GCC itself,” said Sigurd Neubauer, Middle East analyst. 

A meeting between Gulf leaders was scheduled in the US for next month, but it is now expected to take place later this year. 

Source: Al Jazeera