Top US diplomat for Middle East expresses cautious optimism that three-year siege of Qatar by Arab states may soon end.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister says Riyadh is seeking a way to resolve the three-year rift with its Gulf neighbour Qatar.
Commenting on the dispute on Saturday, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said Saudi Arabia is continuing to find a way to end the blockade on Qatar, but he added it remains conditional on addressing security concerns.
The dispute dates from 2017 when Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and non-GCC member Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar, severing diplomatic and transport ties, and accusing it of supporting “terrorism”. Qatar denies all allegations against it.
Last month, Prince Faisal said Saudi Arabia was committed to finding a resolution.
“We continue to be willing to engage with our Qatari brothers and we hope that they are as committed to that engagement,” he said. “But we do need to address the legitimate security concerns of the quartet and I think there is a path toward that” with a solution “in the relatively near future”.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said last week there are no winners in the Gulf crisis, adding his country is hopeful it will end “at any moment”.
But Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the US, told Israeli media he did not believe a resolution was imminent.
“I don’t think it gets resolved anytime soon simply because I don’t think there has been any introspection,” al-Otaiba said.
Prince Faisal – speaking in a virtual interview on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders Summit, which his country is hosting – also said the kingdom enjoyed “good, amicable” relations with Turkey, which has been at odds with the kingdom for years over foreign policy.
The murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 sharply heightened tensions.
For over a year, some Saudi and Turkish traders have speculated that Saudi Arabia was enforcing an informal boycott of imports from Turkey.
Prince Faisal said he has not seen any numbers that would support the existence of a boycott.
The Saudi minister said he was confident that the incoming administration of Democrat President-elect Joe Biden would pursue policies that help regional stability, and that any discussions with it would lead to strong cooperation.
Riyadh is bracing itself for a new US president who pledged on the election campaign trail to reassess ties with Saudi Arabia, a state he described as a “pariah” in 2019.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman enjoyed close personal ties with US President Donald Trump and their relationship provided a buffer against international criticism over Riyadh’s human rights record following Khashoggi’s killing, Riyadh’s role in Yemen’s war, and the detention of women’s rights activists.
Those areas may now become points of friction between Biden and Saudi Arabia, a major oil exporter and buyer of US arms.
Prince Faisal emphasised the 75-year history of “strong defence cooperation” between the two countries and said he expected it to continue.