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US expresses cautious hope for easing of Qatar blockade

Qatar has been blockaded by its Gulf neighbours for over three years [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 September, 2020

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A US official has said that a three-year blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt against Qatar could be eased in ‘a matter of weeks’.

A US official voiced guarded hope on Wednesday for an easing of the three-year blockade of Qatar by its Gulf neighbours amid a diplomatic push by Washington.

"There is some movement. I would like to say that it's going to be a matter of weeks," David Schenker, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, said at the Brookings Institution.

Schenker said the United States has been speaking with all sides but that the key players still had issues dividing them.

"There's not been a fundamental shift that makes this that we're going to push the door open right now, but in our talks we're detecting a little more flexibility," he said.

Read more: GCC crisis explained - Why is Qatar under blockade by Saudi Arabia and its allies?

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in June 2017 severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed an aviation embargo on the Gulf state.

The four countries accused Doha -- which maintains relations around the region and is home to broadcaster Al-Jazeera -- of backing radical Islamists as well as Iran.

Qatar vehemently denied the accusations and last July won a ruling at the International Court of Justice regarding airspace restrictions imposed by the blockading countries.

President Donald Trump, who has close relations with the Saudi and Emirati leaders, initially sided against Qatar, but the United States has since tried to ease tensions.

Washington is hoping for Arab support against Iran and has a major air base in Qatar.

The Trump administration has stepped up diplomacy in the Gulf as it seeks to showcase its achievements ahead of November elections.

In recent weeks, the United States sealed a deal with the United Arab Emirates to recognize Israel and has separately worked with Qatar to negotiate with Afghanistan's Taliban.

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