U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday an ongoing boycott of Qatar by its neighbors, America's allies in the Middle East "has dragged on too long," though he gave no sign of any coming breakthrough in the dispute.
"We're all more powerful when we're working together," Pompeo said at a news conference. "Disputes between countries that have a shared objective are never helpful."
Pompeo said he signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar regarding the expansion and renovation of al-Udeid Air Base, which hosts the forward headquarters of the U.S. military's Central Command and some 10,000 American troops.
However, comments by Pompeo and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani gave no sense of any movement in the ongoing diplomatic crisis with Doha.
Doha shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran. It restored diplomatic relations with Iran after the crisis erupted, marking a setback for its neighbors, which views Iran as its main regional rival.
A similar dispute involving Qatar erupted in 2014. But this time, as Doha did not fulfill its commitments signed then, positions have hardened against Qatar, whose support for extremist groups has angered the Arab nations now boycotting it.
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. Regional analysts suggested it may be in part to intransigence of those involved in the crisis.
"The departure of Mr. Zinni in no way reflects any change in America's Middle East efforts, our strategy or our ongoing commitment to the region," Pompeo said. "It was a time for change. He made this decision to move on, but America's commitment remains unchanged."
From Qatar, Pompeo travels to Saudi Arabia on his Mideast tour.
Saturday Pompeo told Al Arabiya English in an exclusive interview that “President Trump made clear immediately in the aftermath of this murder that the relationship is broader and deeper and bigger than that,” Pompeo said.
“We absolutely have expectations when things go wrong, when heinous acts have occurred, people need to be held accountable for this, but this relationship predated that and the relationship must go forward. We have to have a good relation with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and this administration intends to do so”.
with the Associated Press