*Qatar's anti-terror efforts praised
The US on Tuesday praised Qatar for its counterterrorism efforts and highlighted the strong relations between the two countries, while also stressing the need to work towards a solution to end the Gulf crisis.Last updated: January 31 2018 08:05 AM
These observations were made during the opening session of the inaugural US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue in Washington, DC, which was attended by HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis.
The strategic dialogue sessions featured discussions on key areas of co-operation, including trade and investment, security, counterterrorism, energy and aviation.
“Qatar is a strong partner and a longtime friend of the United States. We value the US-Qatar relationship and hope the talks deepen our strategic ties,” Tillerson said. “The United States believes enhanced trade will contribute positively to both our countries’ economic development, and create jobs for the American people and Qatari citizens while furthering the region’s security and stability.”
According to a statement issued by the US Department of State, Tillerson noted that with respect to counterterrorism, “following President (Donald) Trump’s challenge to all of our Gulf partners during the Riyadh summit last year, Qatar has made significant progress to improve efforts to combat terrorism”.
“As a result of the memorandum of understanding our countries signed in July (last year), the United States and Qatar have increased information sharing on terrorists and terrorist financiers. We have participated in counterterrorism technical training and taken steps to improve aviation security. We look forward to building on this foundation and implementing next steps,” he observed.
He also announced that the US and Qatari governments will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that creates a framework for the US to provide technical assistance and training to the Qatari government on combating human trafficking. The MoU also provides for the creation of a bilateral government working group to discuss labour practices in Qatar. “Through our continued co-operation, we hope to partner with Qatar to build institutional capacity to eliminate human trafficking, an area in which Qatar has already made significant strides,” he said.
Other critical regional security issues, including the ongoing battle to defeat ISIS, the Gulf crisis, the situation in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iran’s role in the region, were also to be discussed.
Speaking on the Gulf crisis, he said: “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.”
Tillerson said it is critical that all parties work towards a resolution. “A united GCC bolsters our effectiveness on many fronts, particularly on counterterror.”
Mattis, too, stressed that the US enjoys a longstanding defence relationship with Qatar. “A strong and valued military partner, Qatar is a longtime friend in the region. Even in the midst of its own current challenges, Qatar and the United States maintain excellent military-to-military relations, hosting the Al Udeid Air Base, home to our Combined Air Operations Center, the United States Air Force Central Command Forward Headquarters, and US Central Command’s Forward Headquarters, providing critical counterterrorism support to the Defeat ISIS/Defeat Daesh coalition and President Trump’s South Asia strategy,” he said.
“We are grateful to Qatar for their longstanding support of America’s present and continuing commitment to regional security, a commitment that includes information sharing and counterterrorism training. It should be noted that just this last week, the Qatari Air Force completed its first two C-17 flights from the Gulf to Afghanistan and back, providing logistical support to the Nato counterterrorism campaign in Afghanistan,” he continued.
“As Secretary Tillerson stated, a united Gulf Co-operation Council bolsters our effectiveness on many fronts, particularly on countering terrorism,” Mattis added. “It is thus critical that the GCC recovers its cohesion as the proud Gulf nations return to mutual support through a peaceful resolution that provides for enhanced regional stability and prosperity.
“I look forward to a lasting Qatar-US security relationship, a relationship that will continue to bolster our efforts against common security threats and violent extremism.”
Tillerson said the two countries were to sign a number of documents outlining co-operation in the important bilateral and regional areas mentioned, including three at the opening session.
The first was a memorandum of understanding that establishes the convention for this US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue on an annual basis going forward, “so that we can continue to build on the close partnership between our two countries”.
The second document is a joint declaration outlining US co-operation with Qatar on matters of shared regional and security interests, while the third is a memorandum of understanding that creates a framework for the co-operation between the US and Qatar to combat human trafficking.
He also noted that the US welcomed the understanding they reached on civil aviation.