U.S. senator to block arms sales to Gulf over Qatar crisis

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that "recent disputes" among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council undermine efforts to combat the Islamic State and counter Iran.

The influential senator said that his committee would block lethal military weapons sales to GCC states - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman - until there was "a better understanding of the path to resolve the current dispute and reunify the GCC".

They later sent a list of 13 demands to end the dispute including Qatar's closing of broadcaster Al Jazeera, the shutting down of a Turkish military base in the country and reduce ties with Iran.

U.S. law states that major arms sales are subject to preliminary approval by the chairman and ranking member of the Senate and House committees overseeing foreign affairs before a statutory, 30-day congressional review process begins.

Saudi Arabia and several of its allies yesterday (5 June) cut relations with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremism, in the biggest diplomatic crisis to have hit the region in years.

The German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel likened the crisis to an Arabic House of Cards, adding the demands being made of Qatar were provocative.

Secretary Tillerson's more balanced stance on the conflict leaves open the possibility of Qatar not accepting all the offered terms, and opting to rather meet with the boycotting states at a US endorsed mediation by the neutral state Kuwait.

The decision will not affect a $500m weapons sale to the country that Congress failed to block earlier this month.

During Trump's recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Washington inked a massive, $110-billion arms deal with the kingdom.

Trump considered Corker as a potential vice president and secretary of state, and he works closely with the White House.

Following the announcement that the nations were severing ties, Trump took credit for the move and cheered the announcement as evidence that his meeting in Saudi Arabia had unified the Arab countries in the fight against terrorism.

Qatar, which had 10 days to respond to the demands, is still gauging how to answer.

"Some of the elements" in the demands "will be very hard for Qatar to meet", Tillerson said last weekend. Since the list of 13 demands was presented, Tillerson has been non-committal, observing that some of them would be "very hard for Qatar to meet", but arguing there were "significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to resolution". "A lowering of rhetoric would also help ease the tension".

Erdogan rejected the call to remove Turkish troops outright.

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