US envoy Anthony Zinni tasked with resolving Gulf crisis resigns

Anthony Zinni says he is stepping down because of ‘unwillingness’ of regional Arab leaders to end dispute with Qatar.

A US envoy tasked with resolving the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Gulf Arab neighbours has quit his post citing “unwillingness” of regional leaders to engage in dialogue, according to CBS News.

The US-based broadcaster said on Tuesday that Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine general, resigned after realising he “could not help resolve” the 18-month-long row, in which four Arab countries cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, after accusing it of supporting “terrorism”.

Qatar denies the charges.

The quartet – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – also imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the tiny Gulf state.

Zinni, a former commander of US Central Command, said he was stepping down because of the “unwillingness of regional leaders to agree to a viable mediation effort that we offered to conduct or assist in implementing”.

A spokesman for the US State Department confirmed Zinni’s resignation to The Associated Press news agency.

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Robert Palladino said US President Donald Trump’s administration will continue to pursue Zinni’s work, which also included discussing with regional leaders the idea of a NATO-like group called the Middle East Strategic Alliance.

Failed mediation 

Zinni was appointed by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in August 2017, two months after the dispute between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc erupted.

His resignation comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began a Middle East tour, that includes stops in the six countries that form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as well as Egypt and Jordan.

State Department officials have said Pompeo hopes his trip will fortify the GCC, which has been weakened by the Gulf crisis, and organise a summit of its leaders in the United States later this year.

Mediation efforts by Kuwait have also failed to end the crisis so far.

The boycotting states insist Qatar must meet a list of demands submitted to it at the start of the crisis, which include closing down the Al Jazeera Media Network, reducing ties with Iran, and closing a Turkish military base in Qatar.

Doha said the demands amounted to an unlawful intervention against its sovereignty.

In November, Saudi Arabia and Egypt said the blockade will continue and they were not willing to make “any concessions” towards Doha.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has said that his country remained ready to hold talks to end the dispute.

“In the Gulf crisis our position remains unchanged – lifting the blockade and settling the differences via dialogue,” he said in December.

Despite an initial disruption to its supply chains, Qatar has managed to weather the embargo by establishing new trade links, primarily with its ally Turkey, and injecting around $40bn from its ample foreign currency reserves into the economy.