Pompeo urges Gulf states to end Qatar boycott

Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia for talks on a range of Mideast crises topped by the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, threats from Iran and the Saudi response to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi past year.

"We will continue to have a conversation with the crown prince and the Saudis about ensuring that the accountability is full and complete with respect to the unacceptable murder of Jamal Khashoggi", Pompeo said.

However, comments by Pompeo and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani gave no sense of any movement in the ongoing diplomatic crisis with Doha.

"We're hoping that the unity of GCC will increase in the days and weeks and months ahead", Pompeo said, adding that Gulf unity was essential for a planned Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) that would also include Jordan and Egypt. "So, he definitely has to mention Jamal Khashoggi, and he has to show that the U.S. is concerned with that, but I think they [the Trump administration] are much more on the same line [as the Saudis] - they don't want the Saudi crown prince [Mohammed bin Salman] to be hurt by this affair", said Majed.

Prince Khalid Bin Salman and other officials attended the meeting.

Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia on the latest leg of his regional tour, with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the blockade of neighbouring Qatar expected to be high on the agenda.

Rights groups have called on Pompeo to also press Prince Mohammed over the jailing of women activists in the kingdom, amid claims that many of them faced sexual harassment and torture during interrogation.

Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, have strongly hinted that the killing could not have taken place without the authorisation of Prince Mohammed.

Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar in the summer of 2017, accusing the Gulf state of supporting terrorism, an allegation which Doha denies.

"We are all more powerful when we are working together and disputes are limited". "Disputes between countries that have a shared objective are never helpful".

However, Pompeo later admitted in a Q&A session with USA embassy staff in Doha that no progress was made on resolving the issue. "And I regret that".

Stopping off in the small, energy-rich nation as part of a Mideast tour, America's top diplomat made a repeated point to say that "great things" were happening between Qatar and the United States.

A similar dispute involving Qatar erupted in 2014.

Attempts at mediation between Qatar and the blockading nations have stalled, as highlighted by the recent resignation of U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni - who quit because of an apparent "lack of will" on behalf of "regional leaders" for regional reconciliation.

"It was time for change and he made his decision to move on but America's commitment remains unchanged", said Pompeo of Zinni.

Speaking with senior Saudi officials on his arrival in Riyadh late Sunday, Pompeo stressed the importance of ending fighting in Yemen and keeping up pressure Iran.

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