US plans launch of ‘Arab Nato’ in January

The formation of the alliance has been complicated by a regional rift that has seen Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt cut ties with Qatar



The United States is preparing to host a summit in January to launch an Arab version of Nato, according to reports.

The National cited US deputy assistant secretary of state for Arabian Gulf affairs Tim Lenderking as confirming the plans.

He told the publication he had been undertaking negotiations with countries over the last three weeks to lay the foundations for the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA).

“This stems from the Riyadh summit in 2017 where everyone agreed that the US and the GCC would meet on an annual basis…we added on top of that the keen interest on both sides in building MESA,” the official was quoted as saying.

The alliance would have a basis in security, economic and political areas, he said.

Members are expected to include the Gulf Cooperation Council members – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – the US, Egypt and Jordan.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo will hold a meeting with the nations on the sidelines of this week’s United Nations General Assembly on Friday to prepare for the January summit.

Lenderking said MESA would be a “strong shield against threats in the Gulf” including Iran, cyber attacks and conflict management in Syria and Yemen.

However he cautioned that talks were still in the early stages and the timeline could change.

The formation of the alliance is complicated by a regional rift that has seen Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt close diplomatic, trade and transport links with Qatar since June 2017 over its alleged support of terrorist groups.

Reuters reported in April that the US was postponing a planned September summit with Gulf leaders because of the dispute.

Read: US postpones planned Trump summit with Gulf leaders

Earlier this week, the two sides sparred at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council after Qatar alleged the UAE violated International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (ICERD).

This followed the filing of a case against the UAE at the International Court of Justice over immigration policies that Qatar claims have separated Qatari families.

The UAE issued a statement from the four countries during the council meeting denying the allegations.

Read: UAE refutes Qatar’s allegations that it violated convention on discrimination