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Thursday, October 29, 2020

US Working With Qatar to Normalize Israel Ties, Official Says

The U.S. sees Qatar as another Gulf nation potentially prepared to normalize ties with Israel as the Trump administration seeks to keep momentum behind its Middle East peace efforts, a senior State Department official said.

“Qatar has a track record of working with Israel that we think will eventually get them to a broader agreement with the Israelis,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tim Lenderking said in a call with reporters on Thursday. “We think there’s a lot to build on, every country will move at its own pace on normalization, according to its own criteria, but we’re eager for that to happen sooner rather than later.”

The U.S. wants all Gulf states to eventually normalize ties with Israel, Lenderking said.

Qatari Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Alkhater said this week her country won’t join its Gulf Arab neighbors Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in establishing diplomatic relations with Israel until its conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.

Speaking of the three-year-old Gulf rift that has pitted Qatar against a Saudi-led bloc of Arab nations, Lenderking said the U.S. is “very keen to see that the airspace is opened for aircraft not to have to fly over Iran. Though it may not be a matter of weeks, we’re still very dedicated to resolving the rift, we’re in contact with all of the parties.”

The U.S. won’t be able to impose a solution to the boycott of Qatar by regional states and all countries involved will need to compromise. “If it’s possible for countries to normalize with Israel, it ought to be possible for Arab countries to normalize amongst each other,” he said.

On other key issues, Lenderking said:

  • Hezbollah is helping “strangle” Lebanon, and the U.S. doesn’t see the Iran-backed organization’s influence as helpful to the proper functioning of the Lebanese state.
  • Turkey remains a key ally for the U.S., but the government’s stance on Israel is the “wrong posture and against the trend.”
  • On the potential sale of F-35 jets to the UAE: That’s a process that’s underway but the threat of technology transfer is a “big red line for us. We do not wish that kind of sophisticated technology to fall into the hands of any other player who’s not directly involved in the sale.”
  • The U.S. wants the Yemen conflict to come to a close, and is engaging efforts to build a political process. “There is no military solution and we all have to collectively use our political muscle to bring about a sustained political process and to address the humanitarian need in Yemen.”

© Copyright 2020 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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