UAE sees ‘seeds of progress’ on Gulf crisis, says envoy to US

Emirati official Otaiba says there are commitments to ‘tone things down’ as Gulf countries work to end dispute with Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel blockade on Qatar in June 2017 [Sorin Furcoi /Al Jazeera]

There were “seeds of progress” in resolving a long-running Gulf Arab dispute and a commitment to “tone things down” as the parties work for a solution to end the rift with neighbouring Qatar, according to the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Washington.

Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba’s comments on Tuesday to a US think-tank were more cautious than those of ally Saudi Arabia, whose foreign minister last week said significant progress was made and a final agreement was within reach.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel blockade on Qatar in June 2017. Mediation efforts by Kuwait and the United States have been unable to end the crisis.

“I think there’s definitely progress or at least there are seeds of progress,” al-Otaiba told the Hudson Institute via videolink in Abu Dhabi’s most concrete remarks since Kuwait on Friday announced movement towards a resolution.

“There are a lot of commitments … to kind of tone things down, to stand down. If that holds, I think it is promising. I think there is a chance that you can at least begin a process of deconflicting,” al-Otaiba said, adding that time would tell whether this would hold to enable “some kind of concept of a solution”.

Qatar has also been more cautious in public remarks, with its foreign minister voicing hope that things would move in the right direction.

Earlier on Tuesday, in the first public comment by the UAE on the recent developments, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash praised Saudi Arabia’s “benevolent efforts on behalf of the four states”, adding the Emirates looked forward to a “successful” Gulf Arab summit, which is set to take place in Kuwait this month.

Egypt’s foreign ministry also welcomed the developments on Tuesday.

“We hope that these commendable efforts will result in a comprehensive solution that addresses all causes of the crisis and guarantees strict and serious commitment to what will be agreed upon,” a ministry statement said.

All countries involved 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.

The boycotting nations accuse Qatar of carrying out an independent foreign policy and issued 13 demands including easing ties with their regional rival Iran, closing down a Turkish military base in Qatar, and shutting down Al Jazeera Media Network.

Doha has promised to maintain its policies and baulked at fulfilling any demands that undermine its sovereignty.

The quartet subsequently forced out Qataris living in their countries, closed their airspace to Qatari aircraft, and sealed their borders and ports, separating some mixed-nationality families.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies