WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s response to the Arab blockade of Qatar (all times local):
The White House says President Donald Trump told Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Tuesday that a united Gulf Cooperation Council is “critical to defeating terrorism and promoting regional stability.”
It’s a change in tone for a president who had seemed to welcome the crisis brewing among America’s Mideast allies.
Trump had appeared to side with Saudi Arabia and other countries against Qatar in a series of tweets Tuesday that seemed to endorse the accusation that Qatar funds terrorist groups.
The Gulf Cooperation Council includes Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.
The White House says the two leaders also discussed how to prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and eliminate “the promotion of extremism by any nation in the region.”
The United States is unlikely to play a central role in mediating the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and other Arab nations.
A State Department official says the U.S. believes it is most effective for countries in the region to resolve the conflict among themselves. The official is pointing to offers that Kuwait and Turkey have made to mediate.
Still, the official says the U.S. is working to address the conflict and ensure the U.S. and its Arab partners remain united in their efforts to right extremism and terrorism.
The official says Qatar has made progress in stopping financing for terrorist groups but has more work to do. The official wasn’t authorized to comment publicly Tuesday and requested anonymity.
– Josh Lederman
The Pentagon says the ongoing diplomatic crisis with Qatar has not and will not affect the major U.S. air base there that supports military operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, says the U.S. continues to be grateful to the Qataris for their longstanding support of the American presence and enduring commitment to regional security. He says the U.S. has no plans to change its military posture in Qatar.
In contrast, President Donald Trump is using Twitter to back Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations who cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups.
There are about 10,000 U.S. forces in Qatar. Al-Udeid Air Base is home to U.S. Air Force Central Command and is where American officers speak regularly by phone with Russian counterparts to ensure safe flights over Syria.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, says he wasn’t aware of Trump remarks about Qatar and appeared surprised when reporters described what the president had tweeted.
Corker, who has previously said he wished Trump’s iPhone would be taken away from him, emphasized the importance of the major U.S. air base in Qatar “to the activities we have going on in the region.”
He avoided criticizing the president Tuesday while stressing the need for cooperation in the Middle East.
Corker said: “We know that our Arab friends have differences, right? We understand that, and it’s been our policy generally speaking that we try to work with each of them in a way that understands the differences that they have between each other.”
President Donald Trump is backing Saudi Arabia and other Mideast nations in taking what he says is a “hardline” on Qatar, and said perhaps the rift will be “the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism.” He did not say how the Arab blockade might do that.
Trump says on Twitter that it was good to see that his visit to Saudi Arabia was “already paying off.” Trump met with leaders from Arab and Muslim nations there and he says Tuesday that “they said they would take a hard line on funding extremism.” He says that “all reference was pointing to Qatar.”
He tweets: “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the region have accused Qatar of funding terror groups and cozying up to Iran. Qatar denies that accusation.
Qatar is home to a large U.S. military base.
President Donald Trump says that Middle Eastern leaders complained about the Gulf state of Qatar when he demanded an end to support for radical ideology that encourages terrorism.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump did not take a position on the decision by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab nations to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar but appeared to suggest it was understandable. “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!,” Trump tweeted.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia along with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar over its alleged support for extremists. All of the countries are friendly with the U.S., putting Trump in a potentially awkward position.
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