'Bigger White House role expected in solving Gulf crisis'
February 02 2018 12:41 AM
Charge d’ Affaires Ryan Gliha. PICTURE: Ram Chand

By Faisal Abdulhameed al-Mudahka, Editor-in-Chief

Some activity is expected from the White House in the next few months regarding the GCC dispute as US President Donald Trump seeks a speedy resolution to the nearly eight-month-old crisis, a senior US embassy official has said, adding that American intervention “at the highest level is critical" to solving the issue.
Amid media reports that some sectors are anticipating a gathering of Gulf leaders at Camp David to discuss the crisis, charge d’affaires Ryan Gliha of the US embassy in Qatar clarified that the White House has not made any official announcement.
“The president very much wants a rapid conclusion and solution for this issue. There is no announcement at this point in terms of any summit or anything that’s been called yet, but I would anticipate that you’re going to see activity from the White House directly involving itself in trying to find a solution for this in the next few months,” Gliha told Gulf Times during a press conference in Doha on Thursday.
“There’s no announcement on anything but I would imagine that you’re going to find some activity that will be on the whole GCC level over the next few months,” he further clarified.
Gliha said the first US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue held in Washington, DC on Tuesday took off with high-level discussions on the major policies for the region, including the Gulf rift and the “shared desire between the US and Qatar to work closely together to help solve this”.
“We both recognised, as countries, that this is something that needs to be solved as quickly as possible and we both reiterated our support for the Kuwaiti mediation and the need for all parties to come together to dialogue in order to reinforce a unified GCC.
On the “single phone call” statement made by HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah, the charge d’affaires said US intervention “at the highest level is critical to solving the crisis”.
“What we need to do is continue with our efforts to bring all parties to the table and that will include engaging, at the very highest level, our White House to make sure that all parties will get to the table to discuss the issues at hand and come to some sort of solution,” Gliha said.
HE Dr al-Attiyah, who took part in a discussion on US-Qatar military relations hosted by the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC on Monday, said Trump is the only person who can solve the Gulf crisis with a single phone call.
But Gliha stressed that the solution to the Gulf crisis requires the commitment of the major players involved.
“I don’t think it could be solved with one phone call. I would say that it requires commitment from every leader in order to be serious about a dialogue on this and what you have from the US is the commitment to continue to push and to press and find a way to get all parties to the table to discuss this.
“And it is sometimes hard to get everyone to agree just to meet, but I think you’re going to find big pressure from the US side in order to get momentum on this. This has gone long enough. We want a solution and we want it very rapidly.”
Kuwait's mediation
Gliha, who noted that the US will support mediation efforts by Kuwait, lauded Qatar for its “amazing job in terms of weathering the storm”.
He said the US government was “very impressed” with the way Qatar has shown restraint over the last eight months in facing the challenges of the rift with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.
“We appreciate that Qatar has avoided escalation of this conflict and looked for ways to address real issues on the ground to include entering into this memorandum of understanding with the US on counterterrorism to address some of the concerns that were out there,” he said.
He also underlined the US government’s commitment to work together with the Qatari government and through Kuwaiti mediation in order to get to a “rapid solution”.
“It was emphasised in a recent telephone conversation between His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and US President Donald Trump that the US is very much interested in finding a solution to the Gulf crisis as soon as possible.
“The US-GCC relationship has been one of the strongest relationships over the last 30 years to consider as the backbone of regional security. We look forward to, once again, having a unified GCC in order to reinforce that,” he stressed.
During the Strategic Dialogue, Gliha said both countries held military-to-military discussions on the longstanding partnership and alliance between the US and Qatar vis-à-vis the shared fight against terrorism and extremism in the region, particularly the role that Qatar plays as the host of the US Air Force Central Command. 
“Also, the dialogue focused on the offer of Qatar for a major investment to enhance the infrastructure at Al Udeid Air Base. We appreciate the offer and are committed to continue studying the offer and look at what it means for the next few years,” said Gliha.
According to Gliha, the US has a “burgeoning, growing relationship” with the Qatari military on maritime issues. 
“This year, Qatar rejoined and deployed ships to be part of the coalition forces that are here in the Gulf that have two primary missions: freedom of navigation and counter-piracy. The Qatari navy has provided ships and a certain number of ship hours per month in order to patrol and help show their part, so that’s something we’re very pleased with.
“We have also increased the pace of US ship visits that have been coming to Qatar in order to take on supplies or repairs. This is a growing relationship and I think this is something that we are sort of studying very carefully. The more ports that are open, the more facilities that are open to allow ships more options to come and get repairs and resupply is better operationally and it makes us more effective.
“Clearly, any offer of that type of support is one that we’re glad to receive from the Qatari side. If they’re going to be improving their ports, I can guarantee you that there are going to be more ships from the US Navy coming in that direction,” he said.
On the issue of human trafficking, Gliha lauded the “great leadership” of HE the Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs Dr Issa Saad al-Jafali al-Nuami and his efforts to improve the conditions for labourers in Qatar.
“The issue on human trafficking is a region-wide issue and we continue to work on a bilateral basis with every country of concern in the region so we’re not singling out Qatar at all. In fact, we’re singling out Qatar in a good way by saying they’re the ones that are doing this and they’re asking assistance in order to make sure that the reforms that they have spent so much time working on are effective,” he said.
Asked about the role of the US in addressing the issue of divisiveness on social media, Gliha said: “To escalate emotions is not helpful to solving this crisis. In fact, what it is doing it is making sure that the emotional and psychic damage done by this crisis continues even if we are to solve this.
“The use of social media to drive wedges in between families and people, friendly and brotherly peoples, that is incredibly damaging and does not help get to a solution. And it will make healing, once a solution arrived at, much more difficult. On every side, all governments need to have a role in keeping rhetoric down to a calm level.”

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