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US sending representatives to handle Qatar crisis

Tim Lenderking and retired General Anthony Charles Zinni expected to arrive in Gulf next week

Gulf News

Manama: The US is sending a diplomat and a retired general to the Gulf in a new attempt to help defuse the Qatar crisis.

Tim Lenderking, deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Gulf Affairs in the Near East Bureau, and Retired General Anthony Charles Zinni are expected to arrive in the Arabian Gulf next week.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed their diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremists and funding terrorism.

The quartet issued a list of demands and said they were willing to talk with Qatar, but after it responds positively.

Qatar has denied the charges and said that it was willing to discuss the issues but only after the demands are dropped.

Mediation efforts, led by Kuwaiti Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, so far, have not succeeded in overcoming the gap between the two sides.

The trip by the two US officials comes three weeks after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made field trips to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar in his bid to bring the parties involved in the standoff to sit together and start a dialogue.

Tillerson came up short in his bid to resolve the crisis and at the end of his shuttle diplomacy efforts, he made no announcement of any incremental progress.

“I’m tired, I’m tired, been a long trip,” Tillerson was quoted as telling reporters as he left the Qatari capital Doha in July, the last leg of his trip.

Zinni and Lenderking are now expected to handle the crisis, end the stalemate and bring Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt on one side and Qatar on the other to the discussion table.

Tillerson said that he was sending Lenderking to the region to push for a resolution of the crisis.

“And I’ve also asked retired General Anthony Zinni to go with Tim so that we can maintain a constant pressure on the ground because I think that’s what it’s going to take,” he reportedly said. “There’s only so much you can do with telephone persuasion.”

Zinni, 74 next month, is a retired United States Marine Corps general and a former Commander-in-Chief of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM).

In 2002, he was selected to be a special envoy for the United States to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

He has been credited for foresight in predicting the dangers of terrorism coming out of Afghanistan before the September 11 attacks of 2001 and supporting the Iraq War troop surge of 2007.

In February 2009, he told the Washington Times that he had been offered the position of US ambassador to Iraq, but the appointment was withdrawn without explanation.