WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A proposed regional security alliance bringing together the United States, Gulf allies, Egypt and Jordan, is at risk of credibility if a Gulf dispute is not resolved, Qatar’s foreign minister said on Friday.
Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of backing their archrival, Iran, and supporting terrorism. Qatar denies the charges and says the boycott impinges on its sovereignty.
The United States has tried, without success, to mediate in the dispute. It is an ally of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, and Qatar is home to a major U.S. air base.
The Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) is meant to serve as a bulwark against Iran and extremism, Washington says. But it is unclear how it can get off the ground given the dispute.
“Regarding the alliance and the creation of the alliance, by ignoring the GCC rift, we don’t think that, even if it’s initiated, that it will be initiated effectively,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in New York.
“There is a serious challenge among the states and we need to address this challenge, in order also to prove the credibility of this alliance. And we believe there’s an opportunity over here,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Gulf allies, Egypt and Jordan earlier on Friday where they discussed MESA, in which a “united GCC” was emphasized.
“The secretary and the foreign ministers had productive discussions on establishing a Middle East Strategic Alliance, anchored by a united GCC, to advance prosperity, security, and stability in the region,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
The United States was planning to host a summit in October to discuss the plan, but that has been pushed back several months. A senior administration official has said Washington was still planning to hold the summit at a later date.
Speaking to Reuters earlier this week, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, called the MESA proposal “very encouraging” and one that “indicates American commitment to the region, its allies and it’s extremely important in a very unstable international system.”
But he added that the Gulf dispute was on the “back burner”, suggesting there were not active diplomatic efforts to resolve the rift and that it would not affect MESA.
“Qatar crisis is on the back burner. It has nothing to do with our ability to present a united front and be a pro-active part of a bigger alliance led by the United States,” Gargash told Reuters.
Additional reporting by John Irish; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Jonathan Oatis