‘Restraint’ by all sides urged  - Gulf diplomats in US for talks

WASHINGTON: Kuwaiti Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Information Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah meets US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday. — KUNA

WASHINGTON: The US and the United Nations expressed late Tuesday their support to Kuwait's mediation efforts to resolve the current GCC crisis, said a statement by the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington. The US support was reflected during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's meeting with Kuwaiti Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Information Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah, said the statement. During their meeting, both sides stressed "the need for all parties to exercise restraint to allow for productive diplomatic discussions". Tillerson also supported the initiative carried out by HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to end the crisis.

Tillerson "reaffirmed his strong support for Kuwait's efforts to mediate the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt," and "urged the parties to remain open to negotiation as the best way to resolve the dispute," the US State Department said in a readout of their meeting. Both officials also agreed "that stopping terrorism and confronting extremism should be our shared and primary focus". Following the talks, the top US diplomat said: "We hope all the parties will continue to talk to one another in good faith."

Earlier, the US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert stated the US is "pleased and happy" that Kuwait has taken on mediation efforts in the current GCC crisis, to ultimately "come to some sort of an agreement." Nauert told reporters that "Kuwait has really done a lot of hard work in terms of trying to bring the nations together so that they can come to some sort of agreement". "We stand by in order to help facilitate some of these conversations," she added. Ultimately, she noted, the GCC countries are "going to have to work out their disagreement".

Sheikh Mohammad also met UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who also lauded the international organization's support of Kuwaiti mediation efforts. Guterres fully supported the initiative carried out by HH the Amir, hoping that it will end the crisis. Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah also met Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, discussing with him recent regional and international developments. Both officials also stressed the importance of ending the GCC crisis.The meetings were attended by Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US Sheikh Salem Al-Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

Meanwhile, Qatar yesterday condemned Saudi Arabia's refusal to negotiate the demands of the kingdom and its allies for ending a crippling embargo on the emirate. Speaking from Washington, where he held talks with Tillerson on Tuesday, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the Saudi position was unacceptable. "This is contrary to the principles that govern international relations because you can't just present lists of demands and refuse to negotiate," he said in comments published in Doha.

His Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir, who is also in Washington, was unbudging on Tuesday over the three-week-old dispute, which has left Qatar, a US ally, isolated under a trade and diplomatic embargo set by its Gulf Arab neighbors. "Our demands on Qatar are non-negotiable. It's now up to Qatar to end its support for extremism and terrorism," Jubeir said on Twitter.

With the support of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, the Saudis announced on June 5 they were suspending all ties with Qatar, accusing it of support for extremist groups - a claim Doha denies. They closed their airspace to Qatari carriers and blocked the emirate's only land border, a vital route for its food imports. They also ordered all Qataris to leave and their own nationals to return home.

Last week, Riyadh laid down a list of 13 demands for Qatar, including ending Doha's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the closure of Al-Jazeera television, a downgrade of diplomatic ties with Iran and the shutdown of a Turkish military base in the emirate. The United Arab Emirates warned that Qatar should take the demands seriously or face "divorce" from its Gulf neighbors.

"The hour of truth is near," tweeted UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash. "It's time for our brother (Qatar) to choose... honesty and transparency and to realise that media furore and ideological heroism are illusions. "We have long suffered (Qatar's) conspiracy against our stability and witnessed its support for ideologies that aim to sow chaos in the Arab world. Enough. Return to reason," Gargash wrote. The rift between its allies has been a blow to Washington just as its campaign against the Islamic State group comes to a climax in Iraq and Syria. Tillerson has held repeated meetings with both sides as well as with mediators Kuwait and the United Nations.

Meanwhile, a top Qatari human rights group said yesterday it will employ Swiss lawyers to seek compensation for those impacted by the decision of Gulf countries to cut ties with the emirate. Ali bin Smaikh Al-Marri, chairman of Qatar's National Human Rights Commission, said his group would take action against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which cut ties with Qatar this month. "We'll be coordinating to start legal action with those affected by these sanctions," Marri told a news conference.

"The three countries are responsible to compensate those affected," he said, adding many Qataris qualified for compensation. "Some cases will be filed in courts in those three countries and in some courts that have international jurisdictions, like in Europe, related to compensation." Marri refused to say which Swiss firm would be employed, but said a statement would be released in the near future.

Many Qataris own properties and businesses in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. One senior official said recently that most Qataris own "two or three properties and a villa" in Saudi alone. Thousands of families are also affected as parents are drawn from Qatar and one of the countries opposed to Doha, and will have property in both. - Agencies