Obama nixes meeting with Persian Gulf monarchs amid divisions

Obama nixes meeting with Persian Gulf monarchs amid divisions
Fri Mar 21, 2014 10:58:25

The White House has canceled plans for a meeting later this month between President Barack Obama and Persian Gulf monarchs in Saudi Arabia based on tensions among US allies in the region.

The summit was to include leaders of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council nations, which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait. Diplomats informed of the decision to scuttle the meeting said the cancellation symbolizes the tumultuous political climate in the Middle East.

The US has worked with the PGCC on security and economic issues in recent years, but the main points of contention include Syria’s war and Iran’s nuclear operations.

In addition, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain withdrew ambassadors from Qatar this month based on its support for the Muslim Brotherhood group.

The US scrapped the summit upon the recommendation of many of the PGCC countries, officials said.

"It's unfortunate, because we thought it was important to have such a high-level dialogue," a senior Arab official told The Wall Street Journal.

The White House did not comment.

Obama will, though, meet face-to-face with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in Riyadh next week at the conclusion of a trip mostly focused on Europe and the ongoing strife in Ukraine.

The meeting will certainly address tensions between Washington and Riyadh over the Obama administration’s secret talks with Iran – the kingdom’s top regional rival – and the failure of the US to follow through with military force against Syrian President Bashar Assad, Arab officials said.

The US Treasury Department said it has seen the recent transfer of large amounts of funding from charities and social media sites based in Qatar and Kuwait to extremists fighting the Iraqi government and Iran’s ally Syria, including Al Nusra Front, which is linked to Al-Qaeda.

Cohen added that Kuwait "has become the epicenter of fundraising for terrorist groups in Syria."

Qatar and Kuwait officials have denied the accusations of support for alleged terror groups.

Backing the Brotherhood and ousted former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Qatar ran afoul of the Saudis and the UAE, which have invested heavily in supporting the new military-led regime in Cairo.

The US is closely tied with the PGCC countries, supplying them with billions of dollars in weapons and maintaining military bases in Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth fleet.

Yet the countries are divided over US efforts to work with Iran to scale back its nuclear program. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain say Washington isn’t doing enough to force Tehran’s hand, while Oman, for instance, has played a role in mediating the nuclear talks.


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