Pompeo arrives in Riyadh, holds talks with Al-Jubeir

Remigio Civitarese
Gennaio 14, 2019

Pompeo says Khashoggi's murder is unacceptable, and he will work to get new answers from the Saudi Crown Prince during his visit.

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani also said his country's relationship with America "has enabled us to confront so many regional and worldwide challenges".

Prince Khalid Bin Salman and other officials attended the meeting.

Pompeo and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani inked a number of economic, political and security agreements during the opening session.

Riyadh prosecutors have announced indictments against 11 people, and are seeking the death penalty against five of them.

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.

"It is time for old rivalries to end for the sake of the greater good of the region", Mr Pompeo said on Thursday in Cairo, where he laid out the Middle East strategy of US President Donald Trump's administration.

Hours before Pompeo arrived in Riyadh, The New York Times published an op-ed column by the sister of prominent jailed Saudi activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, calling on the top USA diplomat to speak up about the detention of Saudi women's rights activists.

From Qatar, Pompeo travels to Saudi Arabia on his Mideast tour.

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.

During his visit to Qatar, Pompeo refused to comment on reports Washington had recently considered military action against Tehran.

He expressed gratitude to Qatar for hosting 13,000 United States soldiers at Al Udeid Air Base, going on to reiterate keenness on enhancing bilateral cooperation especially that Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

"As for the GCC... we are all more powerful when we're working together when we have common challenges in the region and around the world", Pompeo said, referring to the six member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council. "Disputes between countries that have a shared objective are never helpful".

However, Pompeo later admitted in a Q&A session with United States embassy staff in Doha that no progress was made on resolving the issue.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all USA allies, began a boycott of Qatar over a political dispute in June 2017 that continues today.

"It's on everyone's mind and not at all clear that the rift is any closer to being resolved today than it was yesterday - and I regret that", Pompeo said.

Pompeo has already visited United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Qatar as part of the tour.

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 U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni.

Earlier this month, Gen. Anthony Zinni, a former commander of U.S. Central Command who retired from the Marine Corps in 2000, resigned as special American envoy to resolve the dispute. "He made this decision to move on, but America's commitment remains unchanged". The proposed Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) has been dubbed an Arab Nato.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday an ongoing boycott of Qatar by four of America's allies in the Middle East "has dragged on too long", though he gave no sign of any coming breakthrough in the dispute.

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