Pompeo: The diplomatic crisis in Qatar & # 39; has been dragging too long & # 39;
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that a continuing boycott of Qatar by "four of America's allies in the Middle East" has been going too long ", although he did not sign gave an upcoming breakthrough in the dispute.
Stopping in the small, energized nation as part of a Middle East tour, the American top diplomat made a repeated point to say that "big things" happened between Qatar and the United States.
"We are all more powerful when we work together," Pompeo said at a press conference. "Disputes between countries with a common goal are never helpful."
Pompeo said he signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar about the expansion and renovation of al-Udeid Air Base, where the headquarters of the US Army's central command and approximately 10,000 American troops are housed.
However, the remarks made by Pompeo and Qatari, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, did not give any indication of any movement in the ongoing diplomatic crisis with Doha.
Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates started a boycott of Qatar in June 2017, claiming that Qatar is financing extremist groups and has too close ties with Iran. Qatar has long denied funding to extremists, but Doha shares a huge off-shore gas field with Tehran that gives its citizens the highest per capita income in the world. It restored diplomatic relations with Iran after the crisis erupted, marking a setback for Saudi Arabia, that the Shiite power regards Iran as its main regional rival.
Abu Dhabi's crown prince Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan greets a visit to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prior to their meeting at Al-Shati Palace in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on Saturday, January 12, 2019. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Pool Photo via AP)
A similar dispute involving Qatar broke out in 2014. But this time, the positions have been hardened against Qatar, whose support for Islamic opposition groups has angered the Arab countries by boycotting it now.
Earlier this month, General Anthony Zinni, a former commanding officer of the American Central Command who retired from the Marine Corps in 2000, resigned as a special American envoy to resolve the dispute. Regional analysts suggested that it may be partly due to the intransigence of those involved in the crisis.
"The departure of Mr. Zinni in no way reflects any change in the Middle East's efforts in the Middle East, our strategy or our continued commitment to the region," said Pompeo. "It was a time for change, he made this decision to move on, but America's commitment remains unchanged."
From Qatar, Pompeo travels to Saudi Arabia during his Mideast tour. The relationship between Riyadh and Washington remains tense after the murder in October on columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Washington at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Members of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's entourage are involved in the murder and American lawmakers have demanded that America withdraw its support for the Saudi war in Yemen.
"We will continue to have a talk with the Crown Prince and the Saudis about ensuring that the responsibility is complete and complete with regard to the unacceptable murder of Jamal Khashoggi," said Pompeo.
"We will continue to talk about that and ensure that we have all the facts so that they are certainly held accountable by the Saudis, but also by the United States, where applicable," he added.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
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