Fri, 23 Oct 2020

U.S. reaffirms relations with Qatar despite blockade by Gulf states

By Jay Jackson, Kyrgyzstan News.Net
20 Sep 2020, 14:56 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, DC - The United States continues to court it's host country in the Arabian Gulf, despite Qatar being out of favor with other countries in the region.

The four-day U.S.-Qatar Military Consultative Commission and Strategic Dialogue wrapped up on Thursday in Washington, DC.

Qatar has been isolated by Gulf countries, principally Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, the latter two countries which have been feted in recent times by the Trump administration due to their normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel.

Both the UAE and Bahrain have been at odds with Qatar for more than two years with no sign of the rift healing.

Yet Qatar hosts the U.S. Central Command, and is cooperating with the U.S. in a number of areas, including hosting and being centrally involved in the previous talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, and in the current dialogue involving the Taliban and the Afghan government.

On Monday this week in opening the Strategic Dialogue, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Qatar for promoting stability in the region. This is in stark contrast to its allies, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia which accuse Qatar of destabilizing the region.

Nonetheless Pompeo pointed to the talks about Afghanistan, Qatar's regional efforts in de-escalating tensions in both Syria and Lebanon, and helping to stabilize Gaza.

"To keep our focus on this work, and to close the door to increased Iranian meddling, it's past time to find a solution to the Gulf rift. The Trump administration is eager to see this dispute resolved and to reopen Qatar's air and land borders currently blocked by other Gulf states. I look forward to progress on this issue," Pompeo said in his opening remarks.

"I'm happy, too, today that we're going to sign an MOU designating 2021 as the year of U.S.-Qatar Year of Culture, and to discuss opportunities for cultural exchange. The MOU emphasizes our partnership has grown beyond just defense and economics into one of true friendship and community between our people and our two countries."

The two countries have also entered an Open Skies relationship which went into force on Monday.

The Qatari delegation to the Strategic Dialogue was headed by the country's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

On Wednesday the U.S.-Qatar Military Consultative Commission began two days of deliberations. The U.S. delegation was headed Dr. Michael Cutrone, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, while Brigadier General Abdulaziz Al- Sulaiti, Chief of Qatar's International Military Cooperation Authority, led the Qatari delegation.

The U.S. and Qatar reaffirmed their contributions and their military cooperation in helping shore up security and stability in the region.

The U.S.-Qatar military partnership, both countries say, is critical to combating terrorism, countering violent extremism, and deterring external aggression.

U.S. officials at the commission praised Qatar's support for the U.S. military presence in Qatar under the U.S. Central Command.

The United States welcomed Qatar's continued willingness to host U.S. forces and both sides say they discussed planned improvements to critical facilities at those bases.

The two governments discussed the current $26 billion Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, praised the recent delivery of AH-64E Apache combat helicopters, and said they looked forward to the upcoming delivery of F-15QA fighter jets.

The two countries discussed efforts to enhance their military relationship, including specifically in the areas of defense doctrine and strategy, security assistance, training, and military intelligence. The two governments acknowledged 'the continuing and strong and lasting bilateral security partnership,' and said they 'look forward to that partnership enduring for years to come.'

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