Over the past two months, tensions between Qatar and the UAE have reignited with claims and counter-claims relating to intrusion of warplanes to missing Qatar from the map at the new Louvre Abu Dhabi museum. US administration realises that the rift can lead to a major setback to US policy in the region. The first strategic US-Qatar dialogue that kick-started yesterday indicates a subtle hope to ease tensions in the gulf.
In the inaugural session of US-Qatar strategic dialogue US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson welcomed Qatar stating that “Qatar is a strong partner and a longtime friend of the United States. We value the U.S.-Qatar relationship and hope the talks today deepen our strategic ties”
The session focused on important areas of cooperation, including trade and investment, security, counterterrorism, energy, and aviation between Qatar and US. Apart from focusing on Civil Aviation the session focussed on memorandum of understanding that creates a framework for the United States to provide technical assistance and training to the Qatari Government on combatting human trafficking. The MoU will also lead to creation of a bilateral government working group to discuss labour practices in Qatar.
Tillerson also appreciated Qatar on making a considerable progress to improve efforts to combat terrorism. He further stated that “As the Gulf dispute nears the eight-month mark, the United States remains as concerned today as we were at its outset. This dispute has had direct negative consequences economically and militarily for those involved, as well as the United States.”
He further stressed that all parties must “minimize rhetoric, exercise restraint to avoid further escalation, and work toward a resolution. A united GCC bolsters our effectiveness on many fronts, particularly on counterterror – countering terrorism, defeating ISIS, and countering the spread of Iran’s malign influence.”
Foreign Minister of Qatar Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani expressed his gratitude to US for hosting the delegation .He thanked US for taking a just position on the blockade and agreed that that the” blockade disrupts the joint efforts in providing stabilities for the – stability for the region.” He stated that in addition to security, both countries are committed to improve labour standards and will join forces to stop all forms of human trafficking.
Secretary Mattis appreciated Qatar’s effort in maintaining excellent military-to-military relations, hosting Al Udeid Air Base, home to our Combined Air Operations Center, the United States Air Force Central Command Forward Headquarters. Qatari Defense Minister Khalid bin Muhammad al-Atiyah expressed that Qatar is committed to take the cooperative military initiatives for welfare of community living in Al Udeid.
The inaugural session of the strategic dialogue has been fruitful in strengthening cooperation in fields of politics, military and economic development. However the overall significance of the dialogue on the blockade and US-Qatar partnership is still awaited.