By Fiona MacDonald
Two U.S. envoys shuttling between Middle East capitals to resolve the Qatar crisis want to shift the focus away from the 13 conditions demanded by the Saudi-led alliance, according to a Gulf official with knowledge of the matter.
General Anthony Zinni, a retired former head of U.S. Central Command, and senior State Department official Timothy Lenderking will promote a solution based on a road map proposed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well as six broad principles that include combating terrorism, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential deliberations.
The alliance of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt last month reinstated the conditions, which include shutting down Al Jazeera television, after initially dropping them to focus on the six principles. The move dealt a blow to mediation efforts led by Kuwait and the U.S.
Tillerson presented his road map when he visited the region last month. The proposals included laying the grounds for direct negotiations based on an accord that resolved a previous dispute between the Gulf nations.
The two U.S. envoys met with Kuwaiti officials on Monday. They’re due to travel to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, before heading to Qatar, the official said.
Kuwait’s emir also dispatched his foreign minister and another member of cabinet to the boycotting nations and Qatar this week. The ministers are delivering to the various heads of state a letter from the emir addressing recent regional and international developments as well as issues of common interest, state-run Kuwait News Agency reported.
The crisis pits U.S. allies against each other in a power struggle over regional influence. Saudi Arabia has strong counter-terrorism ties with the U.S. and is a top customer for American weapons. Qatar hosts the regional headquarters for U.S. Central Command, which includes a state-of-the-art air base the Pentagon depends on to target Islamic State.
The four countries cut transport, economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of funding extremism — a charge vehemently denied by Doha — and being too close to chief Saudi regional rival Iran. There have been few signs of progress in bridging differences since then, with the bloc dismissing Qatari amendments to its anti-terrorism laws as not enough.