US shifts to reassure Qatar with arms sale

The United States unites on a major warplane sale to Qatar and began joint exercise with the emirate’s navy Thursday, underscoring its commitment to their military alliance despite Doha’s rift with other Gulf allies.

Washington has sent differing signals to its longtime ally about its position on the diplomatic crisis which has seen Saudi Arabia and its allies impose sweeping penalties on the emirate.

Last week, US President Donald Trump expressed support for the Saudi-led allegations against Qatar, charging that it had “historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level”.

Pentagon and State Department officials have since scrambled to reassure the emirate, which houses the largest US airbase in the Middle East and the command headquarters for US military operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

For the signing of the agreement for the sale of F-15 fighters US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis welcomed Qatari counterpart Khalid al-Attiyah to Washington on Wednesday.

“The $12-billion sale will give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar,” the Pentagon said.

According to the Qatari defense ministry “The vessels docked in Hamad Port, south of the capital Doha, on Wednesday”

Washington has voiced growing concern about the impact of the diplomatic crisis on its military operations against IS, just as they come to a climax in the jihadists’ Iraq and Syria bastions, Mosul and Raqa.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that the rift was “hindering” the campaign and urged Saudi Arabia and its allies to ease their “blockade”

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in a news conference at Washington denied the sanctions amounted to a blockade, insisting that it was the kingdom’s sovereign right to close its airspace to Qatari aircraft and seal the emirate’s sole land border.

Saudi Arabia and its allies led by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain have said there can be no mending of ties until Qatar ends its support for groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, which the four governments blacklist as a “terrorist” group.

But Qatar and its allies led by Turkey say the emirate has every right to conduct an independent foreign policy and have branded the sanctions imposed as “inhumane and unIslamic”

Turkey has been caught in a delicate balancing act. While standing squarely behind its ally, it has been anxious not to antagonize key regional power Saudi Arabia.

Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Wednesday.”Saudi Arabia has the potential and capability to solve this crisis as a wise state and big brother of the region and also as a major actor,”

The United Nations has expressed mounting concern about the humanitarian impact of the crisis as well as severing economic and political ties, the four governments ordered Qataris out within 14 days and called home their own citizens.

Bahrain and the UAE have also banned expressions of sympathy for Qatar.

Source: Online

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