Published: Wed, June 28, 2017
World Media | By June Phelps

GOP senator to block arms sales over crisis with Qatar


US Senate member and chairman of the foreign relations committee has told the State Department that the Congress will stand in the way of all arms deals with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) until peace returns among these US allies.

"All countries in the region need to do more to combat terrorism, but recent disputes among the GCC countries only serve to hurt efforts to fight [Islamic State] and counter Iran", Corker wrote.

"I share Senator Corker's concern that the current G.C.C. dispute distracts from our shared, most pressing security challenges - defeating ISIS and pushing back on Iran", Mr Cardin said in a statement.

Major foreign arms sales from USA companies must be approved by the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee before a statutory, 30-day congressional review process.

The senior senator's threat adds pressure on GCC members to settle the crisis, triggered on June 6 when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates imposed a blockade on Qatar and cut diplomatic ties.

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Congress has the power to block individual sales during a 30-day review period from when the state department gives notification of an impending sale.

Qatar denies the allegations against it and says the demands are aimed at curbing its sovereignty.

In his letter, Corker said he was pleased with President Donald Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia, which included a summit of the GCC.

They want Doha to close the al-Jazeera TV channel, restrict diplomatic ties with Iran, halt the construction of a Turkish military base in the country, and sever contacts with extremist organisations.

Last month, a motion to halt sale of about $500m of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia as part of the $110 bn arm deal signed in May in Saudi Arabia was narrowly defeated.

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President Donald Trump initially expressed his support for the actions taken against Qatar despite it hosting the largest United States military base in the Middle East.

Tillerson also said Qatar will find it "very difficult" to comply with some demands made by the Saudi-led bloc, though he said they can be a basis for talks.

Mr. Rouhani's comments came days after Doha rejected Saudi terms to end the blockade and subsequent sequestration of Qatar from the larger Middle East. Kuwait moderated the negotiations to draft terms for normalization of relations between Doha and the GCC, which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed support for prior to their rejection by Doha.

The foreign minister also said there were now no negotiations with Qatar over the demands.

But his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, acknowledged on Sunday that some of the demands issued by its neighbours would "be very hard to meet" and called for "dialogue leading to resolution".

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