US envoy ends efforts to mediate Arab quartet's row with Qatar

Anthony Zinni stepped down "because of the unwillingness of the regional leaders to agree to a viable mediation effort."
Wednesday 09/01/2019
Retired US General Anthony Zinni. (Flickr)

WASHINGTON - A US envoy charged with resolving a dispute between Qatar and a Saudi-led Arab quartet and to forge an Arab security alliance to contain Iranian power has resigned, CBS News reported on Tuesday.

CBS News quoted Anthony Zinni as saying he stepped down from his Trump administration assignment after realising he could not resolve the dispute "because of the unwillingness of the regional leaders to agree to a viable mediation effort that we offered to conduct or assist in implementing."

The diplomatic dispute pits Qatar against four Arab nations -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. The quartet cut diplomatic and transport ties with Doha in 2017, accusing it of backing Islamic extremism and establishing close ties with Iran. Qatar denies the accusations. There has been no sign of a resolution to the spat which has been impervious to foreign mediation efforts. Doha's critics say the crisis can only be resolved within the Gulf Cooperation Council based on the Arab quartet's demands.

Zinni was also the lead negotiator for the creation of the proposed Middle East Strategic Alliance, which would bind Sunni Muslim governments in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan in a US-led security, political and economic pact to counter Shia Iran.

Asked about Zinni's reported resignation, the State Department thanked Zinni for his service and confirmed it would take the lead on the Middle East Strategic Alliance, though it said he would remain available to consult if need be.

"General Zinni's mission was to help introduce the concept of the Middle East Strategic Alliance and start a conversation with leaders in the region. That is happening and well underway thanks to his efforts," said State Department spokesman Robert Palladino. "The Administration, through the interagency process led by the Department of State, will carry the mission forward."

Zinni is the latest official to leave the administration, joining former Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Brett McGurk, the former envoy for the global coalition to defeat Islamic State.

(With Reuters)