Published: Mon, January 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Pompeo applauds Qatar's assistance while on Mideast tour

Pompeo applauds Qatar's assistance while on Mideast tour

Pompeo will travel to Saudi Arabia after his daylong stay in Doha.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday met Saudi Arabia's king and crown prince in Riyadh.

The US Embassy in Riyadh tweeted that Pompeo and the crown prince had agreed on the need for a continued de-escalation in Yemen and adherence to agreements made last month at talks in Sweden to end a almost four-year civil war between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and the Iranian-aligned Houthis.

"We'll continue to talk about that and make sure we have all the facts so that they are held accountable certainly by the Saudis, but by the United States as well, where appropriate", he added.

The relationship between Riyadh and Washington remains tense following Khashoggi's brutal slaying and dismemberment at the consulate.

However, comments by Pompeo and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani gave no sense of any movement in the ongoing diplomatic crisis with Doha. But Prince Mohammed, whose right-hand aides were allegedly involved in the murder, was exonerated by prosecutors.

Khashoggi's murder has cast a renewed spotlight on the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, gripped by what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, but it was not clear whether the subject would be discussed during Monday's meeting.

During Pompeo's previous visit to Riyadh at the height of the Khashoggi affair, his broad smiles with the crown prince had outraged some Americans.

"We spoke about human rights issues here in Saudi Arabia, women activists", he said.

Trump has said he wants to preserve the alliance with the Saudi kingdom, although the US Senate has clearly blamed Prince Mohammed for the murder.

Hathloul's sister, Loujain, is among more than a dozen activists arrested last May - just before the historic lifting of Saudi Arabia's decades-long ban on women drivers.

Pompeo will however cut short the rest of his Middle East trip to attend a family funeral, a State Department spokesman said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt - all U.S. allies - cut ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups and seeking closer ties to Saudi arch-rival Iran.

Washington has also welcomed "Qatar's generous offer to expand critical facilities at bases used by U.S. forces in the country and to align operating procedures at these bases with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation standards, thereby increasing the operational capability of United States and coalition forces based in Qatar".

"When we have a common challenge, disputes between countries with shared objectives are never helpful", Pompeo, who is on a tour of the Middle East, told a news conference in the Qatari capital, Doha.

Mediation efforts by the United States, which at first appeared to back the boycott of Qatar, have stalled, as highlighted by the recent resignation of USA envoy Anthony Zinni.

America has proposed a nine-country alliance that includes Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Egypt and Jordan for security, economic and political cooperation.

"But I believe that there is a path forward where there's a set of common understandings".

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