Trump 'prioritising' end to Qatar blockade before exit
Robert O'Brien said Trump is working on the last diplomatic push to resolve the crisis, expressing hopes for an end for the illegal land, air and sea blockade on Qatar in the next 70 days.
"I'd like to see that get done before - if we end up leaving office - I'd like to see that get done in the next 70 days. And I think there's a possibility for it," O'Brien told The Hill at the 2020 Global Security Forum last week.
"It's in America's interest to have harmonious relationships within the [Gulf Cooperation Council] because that provides an important counterbalance to Iran," O'Brien said.
"It would open up the opportunity for more peace deals with Israel and creating a real economic opportunity zone across the Middle East and even being able to take that out to other parts of the Muslim and the Arab world."
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar in 2017 and imposed an air, land and sea blockade on the Gulf state over what they claimed was Doha's financing of extremist groups and its ties to Iran - Saudi Arabia's regional arch-rival.
Qatar vehemently denies the charges.
The quartet imposed wide-ranging punitive measures including banning Qatari planes from passing through their airspace, closing the Gulf state's only land border with Saudi Arabia, and expelling Qatari citizens.
The move dealt a blow to the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Qatar is a member.
"This is really kind of a family dispute. And like family disputes, sometimes those are the hardest to solve. But we'd like to get all these cousins back together at the Thanksgiving table, so to speak. And it's something we're working on, and we're going to keep working on it. As long as the president's in office, it's something that'll be a priority," O'Brien added.
The comments came amid conflicting reports over potential moves to end the crisis.
Last week, Kuwaiti media said renewed efforts to end the years-long blockade on Qatar are being pushed by Kuwait and the US.
Key mediator Kuwait is working on the main contentious topics that have served as "the main reason for a delay" in resolving the crisis, Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas reported on Tuesday.
"There is a keenness from Kuwait, America and the Gulf to contain this dispute," Kuwaiti sources said, according to Al-Qabas.
But in an interview with Israeli media, the UAE's ambassador to Washington said there was little chance the blockade would be lifted any time soon.
"I don't think it gets resolved anytime soon simply because I don't think there has been any introspection," Yousef Al-Otaiba said on Israel's Channel 12.
"The introspection process did not occur, and they continue to play the victim and continue to pretend to be bullied, but did not address the root causes of the problem, and until you address the root causes of this problem, I do not think this is going to get solved," he added.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in October meanwhile confirmed that the kingdom was "committed to finding a solution".