Washington has been pushing for Gulf quartet to ease or lift blockade against Qatar in attempt to strengthen its hand against Iran
In a last-minute move, the United Arab Emirates urged Saudi Arabia to hold off supporting a US-backed proposal aimed at resolving a three-year diplomatic feud among Gulf countries, Fox News reported.
President Donald Trump has been pushing for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to ease or lift the quartet’s blockade against Qatar in an attempt to strengthen Washington’s hand against Iran.
Fox News, whose coverage is often favourable towards Trump, said a breakthrough in the blockade before the November election would be a major victory for the president.
A deal to resolve the three-year feud was reportedly near completion, according to Fox, after a series of high-level discussions between top leaders from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and the US.
Earlier this year, signs pointed to a thawing of relations between Riyadh and Doha, but in February, Qatar’s foreign minister said efforts to resolve the crisis had been unsuccessful.
Qatar has pressed the blockade issue at the United Nations, bringing up cases that could potentially force the quartet to pay large fines, but has hinted that it would drop them if the issue were to be resolved.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Washington has been focusing its efforts on ending a ban on Qatari airlines, which have been barred from using UAE or Saudi airspace.
Trump wants the restriction lifted, because it has resulted in Qatari aircraft using Iranian airspace as the only corridor out of the region.
These flights and the “overfly fees” paid to Tehran have been an issue of concern for the Trump administration, the Journal reported.
“There is a greater sense of urgency to resolve the airspace issue,” one US official said. “It’s an ongoing irritation for us that money goes into Iran’s coffers due to Qatar Airways overflights.”
Washington is also concerned that many members of its military take commercial flights to and from Qatar, which hosts the largest US military base in the Middle East, the Al Udeid Air Base.
Tensions have escalated between the US and Iran since Trump withdrew from a 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement and began reimposing harsh sanctions as a part of a “maximum pressure” campaign.