The US will maintain good relations with Qatar, President Donald Trump has told an American news channel, adding that the US airbase will not be moved out of the Middle Eastern country despite the diplomatic and economic blockade imposed on Doha by the
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a land, sea and air
blockade on Qatar on June 5.
Qatar is home to the Al Udeid airbase that holds the forward headquarters of Central Command and hosts around 10,000 American troops.
But while saying there are “10 countries willing to build us another base”, Trump said “we will not have a problem with the
“We are going to have a good relationship with Qatar and not going to have a problem with the military base,” Trump said in an interview with CBN News aired on Wednesday.
“If we ever had to leave, we’d have 10 countries willing to build us another one. And they’ll pay for it. The days of us paying for things are largely over.”
Following the Arab countries’ decision to impose the blockade on Qatar last month, Trump, in a series of tweets, seemed to back the move.
He visited Saudi Arabia in May on the first leg of his first foreign trip since taking office and held a series of meetings with the king and other Arab and Muslim leaders.
During the two-day visit, Trump also signed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth almost $110bn - something he alluded to in the interview.
“Saudi Arabia put up hundreds of billions of dollars of money going into buying our planes and our military equipment and investing in our country. And I said, ‘You have to do that otherwise I am not going.’ So they spent hundreds of billions of dollars right in front of us,” Trump said.
“I mean they were signing big people from the biggest countries and companies, General Electric and all of the big companies, many of them were there getting contracts, all good work for our workers - that was one of the things.”
Qatar is also among the countries which purchases military equipment from the US.
Last month, the US and Qatar signed a deal for the purchase of F-15 fighter jets with an initial cost of $12bn.
On Thursday, the White House said Trump spoke to the Saudi King Salman by phone and discussed efforts to resolve the dispute.
The anti-Doha quartet issued a list of 13 demands that included shutting down Qatar’s Al Jazeera Media Network, sever all alleged ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and with other groups, limiting Qatar’s ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country.
Qatar denies the charges of extremism and called the demands “unrealistic”.
In an interview published by The Times newspaper on Wednesday, Noura al-Kaabi, the UAE minister for the federal national council, said the Emirates sought “fundamental change and restructuring” of Al Jazeera rather than to shut it.
“The staff at the channel can keep their jobs and Qatar can still fund a TV channel but not one which provides a platform for extremists and where the English channel is a protective shield for the much more radical Arabic one,” Kaabi told The Times.
Foreign diplomats, including US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, visited the region and called for direct talks to solve the crisis.
During Tillerson’s visit to Doha, Qatar and the US also signed an agreement to help combat “terrorism financing”.
Al Udeid operations not affected: Mattis
The ongoing Gulf crisis has not affected the operations at the US airbase at Al Udeid in Qatar, US Defence Secretary James Mattis has said.
In an interview, the transcript of which has been posted on the official website of the US Department of Defence, he said: “Right now we’ve had no impact on our military operations. Al Udeid continue(s) to operate around the clock, and the supplies are there.”
To a question what would be impact of a prolonged crisis on the US airbase, he said: “There’s just been no impact yet. That’s not to say we don’t want to see this resolved, and resolved as soon as possible with everybody. Everybody working against terrorist financing, not just Qatar, but everybody.”
Asked if the US military was looking at alternatives, in terms of air bases, he replied: “No, there’s been no impact. There’s no need to look at alternatives.”
US President Donald Trump.