December 8, 2020

DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates appreciates efforts by Kuwait and the United States to strengthen Gulf Arab unity, a senior Emirati official said on Tuesday in a reference to a row with Qatar that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia said last Friday that progress had been made towards resolving the dispute that has seen Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt sever diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar since mid-2017.

In the first public comment by the UAE on the matter, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash in a Twitter post also praised Riyadh’s “good endeavours on behalf of the four states” and said the UAE looked forward to a “successful” Gulf Arab summit, which is due to take place this month.

Qatar’s emir has not attended the annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) since 2017 although his premier was present at last year’s gathering, that made no public mention of the dispute.

All countries involved are U.S. allies. Qatar hosts the region’s largest U.S. military base, Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE host U.S. troops.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia did not provide specific details on the progress, but a source in Washington, which along with Kuwait has worked to end the rift, told Reuters a tentative deal was reached by the parties and that it could be signed in a few weeks.

An Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday that Cairo hoped the efforts would result in a “comprehensive solution that addresses all causes behind the crisis and guarantees serious and strict commitment”.

The boycotting nations accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism. Qatar, which denies the charge, says the embargo aims to undermine its sovereignty and that any resolution should be based on mutual respect.

Doha had been set 13 demands, ranging from closing Al Jazeera television and shuttering a Turkish base to cutting links to the Muslim Brotherhood and downgrading ties with Iran.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington in Dubai and Mahmoud Mourad in Cairo; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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