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Saudi Arabia says allies ‘on board’ for resolution of Gulf crisis


Saudi foreign minister says kingdom in ‘full coordination with partners’ and that prospect of agreement ‘very positive’.

A resolution of the Gulf diplomatic crisis is in sight, with all nations involved “on board” and final agreement expected soon, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud has said.

Until recently the three-year Gulf dispute – pitting a group of regional nations against Qatar – had appeared intractable, but Prince Faisal said a breakthrough was imminent.

“We are in full coordination with our partners in this process and the prospects that we see are very positive towards a final agreement,” Prince Faisal told AFP news agency on the sidelines of a security conference in Manama on Saturday, adding that “the eventual resolution will involve all parties concerned”.

“What we envision is a resolution that covers all aspects and is satisfactory to all parties involved,” he said when asked whether the dispute was headed for a full settlement.

It would happen “soon”, he said.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia – along with its allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – cut off diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea and air embargo on the Gulf state, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and having ties with Iran that were deemed too close.

Doha has repeatedly rejected the accusations as baseless while highlighting its readiness for dialogue.

As the price for lifting the blockade, the four nations set a 13-point ultimatum for Qatar, which included shutting down Al Jazeera Media Network and curbing relations with Iran.

Asked whether Saudi Arabia would drop or slim the list of demands, Prince Faisal said: “The best I can say right now, not to prejudice the ongoing discussions, is that the resolution will be satisfactory to all.”

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser al-Sabah said on Friday there was progress in resolving the dispute but stopped short of announcing any breakthrough in the dispute, in which Kuwait has been mediating.

“Fruitful discussions have taken place recently in which all sides expressed their keenness … to reach a final agreement,” al-Sabah said in a statement read out on Kuwait TV.

Earlier on Friday, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani also said there has been progress in resolving the diplomatic dispute.

“Right now, there is a movement that we hope will put an end to this crisis,” Al Thani said.

Broader thaw

Analysts have said any breakthrough would likely only extend to ties between Riyadh and Doha, excluding the UAE which has been the most vocal critic of Qatar since the crisis began.

Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE have not publicly acknowledged any progress in recent days. More than a year ago, a similar hope for an end to the dispute quickly faded.

Prince Faisal indicated, however, that a much broader thaw is being negotiated.

“We are in full coordination with our partners, and everyone is on board for the process as it stands,” the minister said when asked if the UAE was in agreement.

The Donald Trump administration in Washington has also been pushing for an end to the blockade and paving the way for a united Gulf against Iran.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is reported to have raised the Gulf crisis and pushed for progress towards ending the spat during a recent visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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