Qatar emir to visit White House next month amid Gulf tensions

WASHINGTON (AFP): Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani will meet with United States President Donald Trump next month as the country continues to endure the two-year economic squeeze from its US-backed Gulf Arab rivals, the White House announced on Friday.

The emir will meet Trump in Washington on July 9 for talks on regional politics, security and counter-terrorism cooperation, according to the announcement, amid a US effort to build pressure on Gulf power Iran.

“The visit will build on the longstanding partnership between the United States and Qatar and further strengthen our already substantial economic and security ties,” the White House said.

Washington has sought to keep up relations with Qatar, an oil-and-gas rich state which has maintained cordial relations with Tehran even as other Gulf Arab states led by Saudi Arabia have cooperated with Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

For two years Saudi Arabia and its allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have barred Qatari flights from their airports and airspace, banned most Qatari visitors, cut trade and shipping links, and closed their borders, unhappy about Doha’s insistence on maintaining its own approach to regional relations.

Washington was less than enthusiastic about the embargo on Qatar, which hosts two US military bases and the forward headquarters of the US Central Command, which oversees the Pentagon’s operations across the Middle East.

Qatar is also slated to take part in the June 25-26 Bahrain conference on the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, where Washington hopes to raise financial pledges to support the Palestinian economy.