The US is ratcheting up pressure on Saudi Arabia to restore relations with Qatar, Bloomberg has reported, as the kingdom comes under increasing international scrutiny for its role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Washington’s thrust is aimed at resolving the more than year-long political and economic isolation imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing three unnamed sources said to be familiar with the US efforts.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates severed political and economic ties with Qatar in July 2017, imposing a land, sea and air embargo on the small Gulf state, which is home to a major US airbase.
The quartet accused Qatar of “supporting terrorism”, a charge it vehemently denies, and issued a list of 13 demands it said Doha would have to meet to end the crisis.
Last week, Saudi Crown Prince and de-facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman praised Qatar’s economy in a rare conciliatory remark about the Gulf state.
Bin Salman is under heavy pressure over his possible role in the assassination of Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Analysts have suggested the ongoing fallout over the case, which has attracted international media and intense political scrutiny, may result in Saudi Arabia being pressured into changing course in a number of foreign policy areas, including the blockade of Qatar.
Pressure over Yemen
According to one of the sources contacted by Bloomberg, US President Donald Trump‘s administration is also pushing for Saudi officials to resolve the ongoing war in Yemen, a conflict which has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Houthi rebels, who toppled the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
A Saudi-UAE coalition allied with the government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
A UN report published in August said there were “reasonable grounds” to believe all parties to the conflict have “committed a substantial number of violations of international humanitarian law”.
The possible violations include deadly air raids, rampant sexual violence, and the recruitment of child soldiers, the report said.
More than 10,000 civilians have been killed during the conflict, while nearly two-thirds of Yemen’s 27 million people are now reliant on aid and over eight million are at risk of starvation, according to the UN.