U.S. State Dept. "Mystified" by Saudi Stance on Qatar

By The Maritime Executive 06-20-2017 07:52:04

In a statement at a press briefing Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert expressed doubt about the motives behind the Saudi- and UAE-led embargo on Qatar, which has hampered shipping and air travel to and from the small Persian Gulf state since June 5. 

"Now that it has been more than two weeks since the embargo started, we are mystified that the Gulf States have not released to the public nor to the Qatari government the details about the claims that they are making toward Qatar. The more that time goes by, the more that doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE," she said. "At this point we are left with one simple question:  were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar's alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries?" 

In later comments, she appeared to answer this question. "We see this as long-simmering tensions that have been going on for quite some time, and that is why we believe that this can be resolved peacefully among the parties without the United States having to step in," said Nauert. "They can do this on their own, and we're asking them [to] move this along." 

Nauert’s statement appeared to differ from President Donald Trump's generally supportive comments regarding the embargo. In a Twitter post June 6, Trump claimed responsibility for the diplomatic dispute. "So good to see [my] Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries paying off," he wrote. "They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar!" He later asserted that Qatar "has historically been a funder of terrorism, and at a very high level."

In response to reporters' questions, Nauert denied that her comments represented a shift in the United States' position on the Qatar dispute, or that they reflected any difference between President Trump's views and those of the State Department.

For now, the diplomatic impasse appears set to continue. Qatar says that it will not negotiate until the embargo is lifted, claiming that the blockade violates its citizens’ human rights. "This is not just a case of diplomatic ties being cut off," said Qatari National Rights Committee chairman Ali bin Samikh al-Marri, speaking Tuesady at the European Parliament in Brussels. "What is happening is not a boycott but an unjust blockade and a collective punishment for Qatar's citizens and residents." For its part, the UAE says that the embargo could go on for years. Anwar Gargash, the UAE foreign minister, said Monday that "the Qataris are still in a state of denial."