U.S. and Qatar agree to combat terror finance amid the blockade by KSA, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt
16th July 2017, Bachir El Nakib (CAMS), Senior Consultant, Compliance Alert (LLC)
The United States of America and the State of Qatar on Tuesday 11th July 2017 signed an "MOU" Memorandum Of Understanding setting the ground for better-cooperation to fight terrorism and terrorist financing. The agreement comes as the State of Qatar faces a blockade by Saudi Arabia and three other countries that accuse it of, among other things, financing terror.
"The memorandum lays out a series of steps the two countries will take over the coming months and years to interrupt and disable terror financing flows and intensify counterterrorism activities globally. The agreement includes milestones to ensure both countries are accountable to their commitments," U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was in Doha, Qatar Tuesday, said during a press conference (below).
The terror finance memorandum is a "bilateral agreement between Qatar and the United States which has been underway and in discussion for weeks now, and it has nothing related directly to or indirectly to" the blockade, however, said Tillerson's Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.
The four Arab states boycotting Qatar – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt – said later on Tuesday that sanctions would remain in place until it met their demands and that they would keep a close eye on the tiny Gulf monarchy's efforts to fight terrorism funding.
Neither the U.S. nor Qatar has made public the details of the bilateral memorandum. A spokesman for the U.S. State Department declined to share the document or details of its contents when contacted by Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence.
In May, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates signed a memorandum aimed at creating a so-called "targeting center" to jointly combat terrorism finance. That deal was signed the same day President Donald Trump delivered a speech in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, urging Arab and Islamic leaders to unite and do their share to defeat Islamist extremists.
It remains unclear whether the blockade and regional turmoil will impact the creation of the so-called Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, nor how the bilateral U.S.-Qatar partnership will play into the broader effort to combat terror finance.
Press Availability With Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-THANI: (In progress) (Via interpreter) -- at the trilateral level between the United States and Qatar, then a trilateral meeting with the presence of our brothers in Kuwait to discuss the latest developments in the Gulf crisis and the appreciated efforts by our brothers in the state of Kuwait and the help of our friends in the United States.
As for the bilateral aspect of the meetings, we have agreed on many points, and we have signed a memorandum of understanding to – on combating financing terrorism. And this comes in the context of bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Qatar, and as a result of the joint efforts to develop mechanisms to combat financing terrorism and exchange information and expertise to develop this mechanism and to develop the institutions between different countries.
As for the other fields of cooperation in the – on the bilateral – at the bilateral level, we have discussed affairs relating to all political and other aspects. But the main output was the memorandum of understanding pertaining to combating financing terrorism, which for long the blockading countries have accused Qatar of financing terrorism. Now the state of Qatar is the first country to sign this memorandum of understanding with the United States. We invite the other blockading countries to join signing this understanding.
I am here in Qatar today carrying with me the same spirit which President Trump traveled in Riyadh with in May. The United States has one goal: drive terrorism off the face of the Earth. The President said, and I quote, “Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil.” The agreement in which we both have signed on behalf of our governments represents weeks of intensive discussions between experts and reinvigorates the spirit of the Riyadh summit. The memorandum lays out a series of steps the two countries will take over the coming months and years to interrupt and disable terror financing flows and intensify counterterrorism activities globally. The agreement includes milestones to ensure both countries are accountable to their commitments.
Together, the United States and Qatar will do more to track down funding sources, will do more to collaborate and share information, and will do more to keep the region and our homeland safe.
I applaud the leadership of His Highness The Emir of Qatar for being the first to respond to President Trump’s challenge at the Riyadh summit to stop the funding of terrorism. And again, I want to thank His Excellency and His Highness The Emir for the time they have given us today. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Now we open the floor for questions and answers. Al Jazeera channel.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) from Al Jazeera. For Your Excellency, the Qatari foreign minister: What’s your response to the leaking the agreement of Riyadh and the timing of it?
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-THANI: (Via interpreter) First of all, regarding the leaking of the Riyadh agreement last night and the timing of this leaking, these are clear efforts to diminish the role by Kuwait and the mediation by Kuwait, and the efforts exacted by the United States to mediate this crisis. If this leaking reflects anything, it only reflects the approach by the blockading countries, similarly to what they did when they leaked the list of demands. This brings into question the level of trust in these countries in international relations. Usually, commercial companies show respect for this agreement, let alone respected countries and states.
As for the campaign that accompanied this leaking and the accusation that Qatar did not respect the agreement, these are falsifications and Qatar has committed itself and respected this agreement, and this can be proven. This is not a unilateral agreement. This is a multilateral agreement. And the statement – the agreement does not singularly single out Qatar to adhere to this agreement. And this is a clear violation of the blockading countries because they did not use any of the dispute settlement mechanisms, and as a result, if there are any grievances, these shall be discussed either according to the agreement of Riyadh or according to the charter of the GCC.
MODERATOR: A question from Bloomberg.
QUESTION: Thank you, a question for both of you. A couple of days ago, the discussion of what was happening in the Gulf was framed by the U.S. side as something that could take months to resolve and that you were at an impasse – all of the countries involved. Do you have an indication from the other parties in this crisis that they would be willing to sign a similar agreement with you? And does what happened today now sort of revise your timeframe? Do you think this could be solved more quickly, or do you still expect that this is something that will last for some time? Thank you.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think it’s important to first make sure that the proper understanding of the agreement that was signed today is an agreement that we have been working on for quite some time. In fact, there’s elements of this work that actually had been underway as long as a year ago. So what I think you’re seeing the culmination today is really of this reinvigoration of our talks as a result of the Riyadh summit. And President Trump’s very strong call in Qatar, I think, has taken the initiative to move out on things that had been discussed but had not been brought to a conclusion, and to put in place a very, very strong agreement, one that has commitments for action immediately in a number of fronts, and in fact, several steps have already been taken and implemented.
As it relates to the conflict that exists here in the Gulf, we had a good trilateral exchange around the conflict with His Highness The Emir and the foreign minister, with our Kuwaiti mediator partner. And my role here is to support the efforts of the Emir of Kuwait and the Kuwaiti mediator to bring what we can to the discussions to help both sides more fully understand the concerns of the relative parties and also point out possible solutions to those.
So we did have a good, thorough discussion today. I think as most of you know, I’ll be traveling to Jeddah tomorrow to meet with the parties who are on the other side of this issue, and similarly, to explore their feelings and explore options for how we might move this forward. So I would not want to comment on any expectation for a timetable at this point because these are discussions that are still ongoing.
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-THANI: Just to follow up what His Excellency just mentioned, this agreement which was signed, which is being signed now, it’s a separate bilateral agreement between Qatar and the United States which has been underway and in discussion for weeks now, and it has nothing related directly to or indirectly to the recent crisis and the blockade which is imposed against Qatar.
And also, we support the role which is carried out by the Kuwaiti mediator and supported by the United States, and we have been very much positive and forthcoming in engaging in a constructive dialogue which will result for a solution, which is – which has been the behavior of the state of Qatar from the beginning of this crisis. And we hope that the blockading countries behave in the same manner.