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Donald Trump calls for ‘united GCC’, offers to mediate

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US President Donald Trump has offered to mediate in the three-month diplomatic dispute between Qatar and its neighbours, saying “we will be most successful [against terrorism] with a united” Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Speaking at a joint news conference with Kuwait’s emir in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Trump said he supported Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah’s mediation efforts, but if that did not manage to resolve the Gulf crisis, he would be “willing to be a mediator”.
“I think it’s something that’s going to get solved fairly easily,” he said.

“We call on our GCC and Egyptian allies to focus on our commitments at that Saudi Arabia summit to continue our joint efforts to drive out and defeat terrorists.

“Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt are all essential US partners in this effort. We have great relationships with all of them right now, maybe better than we’ve ever had.

“We will be most successful with a united GCC.”

‘Hope has not ended’

The GCC is an alliance of six Middle Eastern countries: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

Kuwait has been acting as a mediator since June 5, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt announced they were severing relations with Qatar and imposing a land, sea and air blockade against it, accusing Doha of supporting “terrorism”.

Qatar has strongly denied the allegations and denounced demands made by the blockading countries as attempts to infringe Qatar’s sovereignty.

On June 22, the Saudi-led group issued a 13-point list of demands, including the shutdown of Al Jazeera, limiting ties with Iran, and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country as a prerequisite to lifting the blockade.

Doha rejected all the demands.

Speaking at the White House press conference, Sheikh Sabah said he had received a letter from Doha saying that Qatar was ready to discuss the list of demands with the quartet, without, however, negotiating anything that would undermine its sovereignty.

“We know that not all of these 13 demands are acceptable,” the emir said, referring specifically to issues that affected Qatari sovereignty.

“A great part of them will be resolved,” he said.

“I am optimistic that the solution will come in the very near future. The hope has not ended yet.”
The United States has given mixed signals on its policy to the Gulf crisis.

Trump immediately expressed staunch support for Saudi Arabia after the Arab states announced sanctions against Qatar, but some other US officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, adopted a more measured tone.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, described what was said by the two leaders at the press conference as a “positive” development in the diplomatic crisis.

“The US president was quite restrained – he didn’t use any inflammatory language and didn’t escalate his declarations against any particular country,” Bishara said.

“The key thing is where Trump stands on this [GCC crisis].

“Clearly, he didn’t make single negative statement in this press conference, unlike previous conferences, which means he is either restraining himself under pressure from the Kuwaitis, or he has actually been convinced otherwise that they all need to sit down and figure it out because, at the end of the day, this is a political problem that requires a political solution.”

Bishara said Trump’s offer to act as a mediator also suggested a change in the US president’s approach to the crisis.

“For Trump to say ‘I support the Kuwaiti emir in his diplomacy and if it doesn’t work I am ready to step in and bring them all to the White House’, this is a different language than the language that we heard before.”

Middle East

Is Qatar taking advantage of Somalia – UAE dispute?

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As Somalia seeks to ease tensions with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar which is seen to be at the center of the fallout of the two nations, has donated 30 buses and two cranes to Mogadishu regional officials.

Relations between UAE and Somalia have been steadily declining since the latter’s decision not to cut ties with Qatar, preferring to take a neutral position in the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In March, Somalia banned UAE’s DP World from doing business in the country after it nullified an agreement the company had entered into with Ethiopia and Somaliland for the management of Berbera port.

Diplomatic row

One week ago, Somalia intercepted a plane chartered by UAE diplomats and confiscated $9.6m cash, saying it would investigate the intended purpose of the funds.

UAE retaliated with a scathing statement describing the seizure of the money as a breach of diplomatic protocols.

Both countries have separately issued statements ending a military cooperation program that was started in 2014, where UAE was training and paying some members of the Somali army.

Voice of America (VOA) journalist, Harun Maruf also reported that the UAE-run Sheikh Zayed hospital in Mogadishu had suspended its operations until further notice.

On Monday, it was reported that another UAE plane had been prevented from leaving Bosaso airport by Somali officials after Emirati military trainers refused to hand over their luggage to be scanned and searched.

Reconciliation talks
VOA has also reported that the Somali government on Monday opened conciliatory talks with UAE leaders.

Somali Foreign Minister Ahmed Isse Awad is quoted to have said that ‘talks have begun between the top leadership from the two countries and are progressing well.’

According to the minister, UAE had explained the purpose of the funds and will work with federal government of Somalia on their utilisation.

Mohamed Moalimuu, Secretary General of National Union of Somali Journalists, tweeted on Tuesday evening that the country’s legislators had been summoned to return to duty, supposedly to discuss the UAE dispute.

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Briefing Room

Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies

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AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.

Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.

One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.

“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.

A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.

The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.

“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.

The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.

“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.

In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.

Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.

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Middle East

Saudi billionaire Alwaleed to walk free ‘within days’

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AL JAZEERA — Prominent Saudi businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, says he expects to soon be released after two months of detention on allegations of corruption.

Prince Alwaleed, who was arrested among dozens of other royal family members, ministers, and top businessmen, said in an exclusive interview with Reuters news agency on Saturday that he expected to be cleared of charges and released from custody within the next few days.

“There are no charges. There are just some discussions between me and the government,” the 62-year-old said.

“I believe we are on the verge of finishing everything within days.”

He and his counterparts were arrested in early November during the kingdom’s “anti-corruption purge”, and were held collectively in the country’s Ritz Carton hotel.

In his interview, Prince Alwaleed said he was continuing to maintain his innocence of any corruption in talks with authorities. He also said he expected to remain in full control of his global investment firm, without being required to give up assets to the government.
During a previous interview with Reuters, a Saudi official said charges against the billionaire prince included money laundering, bribery and extorting of officials.

Also speaking to officials in the kingdom, the Reuters news agency said Saudi authorities were asking detainees to hand over assets and cash in return for their freedom.

The deals involve separating cash from assets, such as property and shares, and looking at bank accounts to assess cash values, one source told Reuters.

Prince Alwaleed appeared frail in comparison to his last public appearance in a televised interview last October, but confirmed that he was being treated well, dismissing rumors that had said otherwise.

Showing off his private office, dining room and kitchen in his hotel suite, Prince Alwaleed said he agreed to the interview mainly to prove that such rumours were false.

The release of Prince Alwaleed, whose net worth has been estimated by Forbes magazine at $17bn, may reassure investors in his business empire. Directly or indirectly through his firm, Kingdom Holding, he holds stakes in companies such as Twitter Inc and Citigroup Inc,

He has also invested in top hotels around the world, including the George V in Paris and the Plaza in New York City.

Saudi authorities said they aimed to reach financial settlements with most suspects and believed they could raise some $100bn for the government this way.

In recent days, there have been signs the purge is winding down; several other prominent businessmen, including Waleed al-Ibrahim, owner of regional television network MBC, have reached financial settlements with authorities, an official source told Reuters on Friday, though terms were not revealed.

Prince Alwaleed said his own case was taking longer to conclude because he was determined to clear his name completely, but he believed the case was now 95 percent complete.

“There’s a misunderstanding, and it’s being cleared. So I’d like to stay here until this thing is over completely and get out and life goes on,” he said, adding that he plans to live in the kingdom after his release.

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