US President Donald Trump has spoken to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud urging him to diplomatically resolve the crisis in West Asia.
In June 2017, a Saudi Arabia-led bloc of nations in Gulf cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar. Qatar has remained isolated with the blockage of its air, sea, and land links. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt alleged that Qatar sponsored terrorism in the region – a charge that Qatar has denied.
A stalemate has since existed between the Saudi-led bloc and Qatar. The Saudi Arabian bloc of nations released six principles for Qatar to abide by for the impasse to end, but Qatar did not respond to these demands. The nation has signaled that it was open to dialogue as long as its sovereignty was respected. Qatar has also filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the World Trade Organization to challenge the trade boycott and is seeking remuneration.
According to a statement by the White House, US President Donald Trump spoke to King Salman over the phone. He is said to have urged the monarch to resolve the crisis as soon as possible. A statement from the White House noted that the President told “all the parties in the Qatar dispute” to find a diplomatic resolution to end the crisis.
Recently, Qatar announced that due to non-cooperation from the Saudi government, the Hajj pilgrimage for Qatari residents was de-facto cancelled. The Qatari Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, noted that it did not receive the travel logistic and security guarantees from its counterpart in Saudi Arabia. Thus, the regulatory process for Qatar’s pilgrims was suspended.
One of the key issues that Saudi Arabia and its allies has had with Qatar is it growing proximity to Iran. In defiance of the blockade, Qatar in August 2017 announced that it was restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran. It also said that it will be sending its ambassador back to Tehran for the first time since 2016.
Trump has been enigmatic about the impasse so far. Even though his administration has worked with Qatar and the Saudi-bloc to bring about a resolution, he has Tweeted his support for the ban in the past. Soon after the blockade was initiated, he took to Twitter to note, “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!”
Our assessment is that it will be up to the Saudi Arabian bloc of nations to initiate dialogue. Qatar has the upper hand in the crisis as it has not buckled down despite being under tremendous pressure. It remains to be seen if Trump’s conversation will affect the outcome.