US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought the foreign ministers from feuding Gulf powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Qatar together under the same roof on Friday as he hosted a meeting of Washington’s Arab allies.
In a statement issued after the meeting on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly, the State Department said “all participants agreed on the need to confront threats from Iran directed at the region and the United States.”
“We all have a shared interest in a wide range of security issues — defeating ISIS, Al-Qaeda, other terrorist groups, bringing peace and stability in Syria,” Pompeo said at the meeting with counterparts from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) along with Egypt and Jordan.
The statement also referred to the goal of forging greater cooperation in the Middle East “anchored by a united GCC” which could “advance prosperity, security and stability in the region.”
That appeared to be a thinly veiled reference to the friction between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the GCC’s most powerful members that have been at each other’s throats for more than a year.
Saudi Arabia — along with its Gulf allies, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and being too close to Riyadh’s arch-rival, Iran.
Qatar denies the charges, accusing its neighbours of seeking regime change.
The rift has proved a strategic headache for Washington as Qatar provides the main headquarters in the region for the US Central Command, while Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and Saudi Arabia has long been one of its key allies in the region.
Kuwait has led mediation efforts in the crisis, which so far have made little tangible progress.