President Donald Trump on Friday called on Qatar to stop funding terrorism as his state department urged Arab states to ease their blockade on the country and calm tensions.
Trump said he spoke with regional leaders in the wake of a recent meeting in Riyadh, and he had decided it was time to call on Qatar to end its support of terrorist groups.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar on Monday over long-standing allegations that Doha was courting Iran and fomenting instability in the region.
“The nation of Qatar unfortunately has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“We had a decision to make, do we take the easy road or do we finally take a hard but necessary action. We have to stop the funding of terrorism. I decided … the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding.”
Trump suggested this week that he supported the Saudi government and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed that position Friday.
“We call on Qatar to be responsive to the concerns of its neighbors” to combat extremism,” he said quoted UPI. “This process requires regional and global consensus and mutual understanding.”
In a swift reaction, according to Reuters, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador in US said, “UAE welcomes Trump’s leadership in challenging Qatar’s troubling support for extremism.”
On Friday, Gulf allies tightened their squeeze on Qatar by putting dozens of figures with links to the tiny, wealthy nation on terrorism blacklists. Fifty-nine Individuals, including members of the Qatari royal family and controversial Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf Qaradawi, as well as 12 Qatari entities have been listed on a new terror list announced in a Saudi, Emirati, Bahraini and Egyptian joint-statement.
Backing Trump’s move, a senior US scholar urged Washington to ensure that Qatar ends its support “once and for all” for the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and other jihadists.
The US “must work to resolve the current crisis to ensure that outside actors such as Iran and Russia are not able to exploit disunity among America’s allies in this crucial region,” David Andrew Weinberg, who previously served as a Democratic professional staff member at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, wrote in The National Interest magazine.
He said Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood has long been an underlying concern for the Saudis, but “it was the Iranian dimension that appears to have moved them in favor of confronting Qatar.”
Recalling the tense Saudi-Qatari relationship, Weinberg said in 2002 Al-Jazeera broadcast spurious stuff that led Saudi Arabia to withdraw its ambassador from Doha for the next five years.
“During that period, Qatar doubled down on its maverick foreign policy, lending a degree of political and even economic support to Iran and several of its proxies, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Assad regime in Syria,” he wrote.
“Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy became somewhat more conventional as a result of facing down an internal Al-Qaeda insurgency from 2003 to 2006.”
According to Weinberg, Qatar jumped at the chance to profit from Saudi Arabia’s loss when Washington looked for an alternate location for its Combined Air and Space Operations Center, moving this crucial air base in 2003 from Saudi territory to Qatar’s Al-Udeid.
“Since then, the base has provided Doha with a measure of impunity from US pressure and considerably reduced Qatar’s reliance on any of its Gulf neighbors for defense,” he said.
Trump, Egypt’s Sisi discuss Arab unity, fighting terrorism
President Trump spoke on Friday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and emphasized the importance of maintaining unity among Arab countries, the White House said in a statement.
It was the fourth call Trump has had with a regional leader since Gulf allies severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday over long-standing allegations that Doha is courting Iran.
The two leaders also agreed on the importance of all countries implementing agreements recently reached at a meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to fight terrorism, counter extremism, and stop the funding of terrorist groups, the statement said.