Trump signals Qatar crisis u-turn in Emir Tamim meeting

Trump signals Qatar crisis u-turn in Emir Tamim meeting
Donald Trump welcomed Qatar Emir Tamim al-Thani to the White House Tuesday, and a few choice words appeared to reshape Gulf politics and ease tensions.
3 min read
11 April, 2018
Emir Tamim is being hosted by Trump [Qatar News Agency/Handout/Getty]

A major twist in the Gulf crisis that has gripped the region over the past year appeared on Tuesday, when President Donald Trump welcomed the Qatar emir to the White House.

The meeting between the US president and Qatar Emir Tamim al-Thani marks a major shift in the relationship between the two countries.

"He's a friend of mine" Trump said effusively. "He's a great gentleman."

It comes after Qatar was accused of sponsoring terrorism by a Saudi-led coalition last June, who launched a blockade on the emirate, with Trump backing Riyadh.

Last June, Trump backed Saudi Arabia and the UAE's hard-line rhetoric against neighbour Qatar in a tweet.

"During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!" he said last June.

The Saudi-led coalition are believed to have been angered by Qatar's hosting of dissidents from across the Gulf and being home to Doha-based Al Jazeera, which has criticised Saudi Arabia and UAE allies in the region.

Trump's support for the Saudi-led coalition was complicated by the fact that Qatar is a long-time US ally, hosts a major US Air Force base, and that the State Department avoided taking sides.

Trump seems to have moderated his stance in recent months and during the meeting eased tensions by mentioning Saudi Arabia and the UAE as other past sponsors of terrorism.

"Those countries are stopping the funding of terrorism, that includes UAE, that includes Saudi Arabia, it includes Qatar and others," Trump said during the meeting.

Emir Tamim also praised the US in being "very helpful in supporting us during this blockade", and thanked the American people for being "very supportive".

"We do not and we will not tolerate people who fund terrorism. We are cooperating with the United States of America to stop funding of terrorism around the region."

Trump went on to note Qatar's purchases of US weaponry, saying they buy "a lot of equipment from us, a lot of military airplanes, missiles".

The Qatari emir went on to insist US relations would improve over the coming years.

"Our economic partnership is more than $125 billion and our aim and goal is to double it in the coming years," he said.

The visit comes after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - thought to be one of the main instigators of the crisis - made a two-week tour of the US and had a more awkward meeting with Trump on the issue of arms sales.

Agencies contributed to this story.