US President Donald Trump is considering calling a landmark summit of Arab allies in a bid to unite them against terrorism and Islamic extremism, a senior White House official told Fox News Saturday.
Among other things, Trump seeks to address the ongoing tensions between Arab countries and Qatar over allegations it supports extremist groups.
Such a gathering, the source told Fox News, could be based on the model of the 1978 Camp David summit that led to a peace deal between Israel and Egypt.
“It’s a Camp David moment. We’ve seen nothing like this in 40 years, and now the president wants to follow through,” the White House official said.
He added that a change in attitude towards extremism was required across the board, not just in Qatar.
“The president now wants to bring all the key players to Washington,” the source said. “They need to disavow groups like the [Muslim] Brotherhood for the stability of the Middle East at large. It’s not just about Qatari elements funding the Brotherhood but disavowing support for extremism in general.”
The intended summit was characterized as a direct continuation of Trump’s speech during his May visit to Saudi Arabia, in which he urged Arabs to fight the “crisis of Islamic extremism” emanating from the region.
The White House source said discussions on the possible summit were ongoing, and would not give an estimate on a possible date for such an event.
Also Saturday a top United Arab Emirates official said the Arab countries isolating Qatar do not seek to force out the country’s leadership over allegations it supports extremist ideology but are willing to cut ties altogether if it does not agree to their demands.
Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told reporters in Dubai that his country and its allies do not want “regime change” in Qatar, but a “behavioral change.”
He described the six-member, Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council that includes his country and Qatar as being in a state of crisis as a result of the standoff, and he referred to Qatar as a “Trojan horse” within the once close-knit group of Arab monarchies that would be isolated for the long term if it does not capitulate.
“The alternative is not escalation. The alternative is parting of ways,” he said. “It’s very difficult for us to maintain a collective grouping with one of the partners … actively promoting what is an extremist and terrorist agenda.”
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain presented a 13-point list of demands to Qatar on Thursday and gave it 10 days to take action. They have signaled that if Qatar refuses to comply by the deadline, they will continue to restrict its access to land, sea and air routes indefinitely amid mounting economic pressure on the Persian Gulf nation.
Qatar says it is reviewing the ultimatum, which includes demands to shut Al-Jazeera and cut ties with Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood. But it has also said it won’t negotiate while under siege.
The countries have previously suggested the demands were their bottom line, though Gargash on Saturday appeared to allow for the possibility for some negotiation facilitated by Kuwait, a GCC member mediating the crisis.
“It is understood that any mediator — that’s his job. The job is to take your … position and to look at the position of the other party and to try and reach something that is doable,” Gargash said.
Qatar has long denied that it supports extremist groups and funds terrorism. But it acknowledges that it allows members of some groups such as Hamas to live in Qatar, arguing that fostering dialogue is key to resolving global conflicts. The Al-Jazeera network it hosts has provided exposure for groups ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood to al-Qaada, and is seen by its critics as a mouthpiece for extremist ideology.
The demands from Qatar’s neighbors amount to a call for a sweeping overhaul of Qatar’s foreign policy and natural gas-funded influence peddling in the region. Complying would bring Qatar’s policies in line with the regional vision of Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest economy and gatekeeper of Qatar’s only land border.
“This list of demands confirms what Qatar has said from the beginning — the illegal blockade has nothing to do with combatting terrorism, it is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy,” Sheikh Saif Al-Thani, a Qatari ruling family member who heads the country’s government communications office, said in a statement earlier Saturday.
AP contributed to this report.