US Official: Qatar blockade by Arab states could be over ‘in weeks’

Qatar vehemently denies all allegations.

[File: Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
Progress may be made in a couple of weeks to end a three-year blockade of Qatar by the  Arab states, a senior US State Department official announced on Wednesday, mentioning signs of “flexibility” in negotiations.

David Schenker, the department’s top diplomat for the Middle East, was quick to urge caution, nonetheless, as there has not been any major shift in talks that would quickly lead to a resolution.

The dispute dates from 2017 when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), theUnited Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Bahrain imposed a boycott on Qatar, severing diplomatic and transport ties and accusing it of supporting “terrorism.”

Qatar vehemently denies all allegations.

“I do not want to get into the whole diplomacy in it, but there is some movement. I want to say that it’s going to be a matter of weeks,” Schenker told a virtual event hosted by the Washington DC-based Brookings Institute.

Saudi King Salman talks with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim al-Thani in 2016, one year before the blockade. (AFP handout/Saudi Royal Palace)

Kuwait and the US have tried to mediate a rift which has undermined Washington’s efforts to form a united front against Iran, that is struggling for regional supremacy with The KSA.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ), bids farewell to Sheikh Tamim Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, at the Presidential Airport, Abu Dhabi. This was just three months before the blockade. (Hamad Al Kaabi / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi)

There’s not been a fundamental shift that we are going to push the door open right now. Yet in our talks, we are detecting a little bit more flexibility, so we are hoping we can bring the sides closer together and end this distraction,” Schenker said.

“These are two sides that are dug in, and yet there is a recognition that this is a distraction from Iran.”

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