FILE PHOTO: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks with the Emirati Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates January 13, 2019 REUTERS
The United Arab Emirates' ambassador to Washington said there were "seeds of progress" in resolving a long-running Gulf Arab row and a commitment to "tone things down" as the parties work for a solution to end the rift with neighbouring Qatar.
Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba's comments on Tuesday to a U.S. think tank were more cautious than those of ally Saudi Arabia, whose foreign minister said last week that significant progress had been made and that a final agreement was within reach.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017 despite mediation efforts by Kuwait and the United States, which says the dispute hampers a united Gulf front against Iran.
"I think there's definitely progress or at least there's seeds of progress," Otaiba told the Hudson Institute via videolink in Abu Dhabi's most concrete remarks since Kuwait on Friday announced movement towards a resolution.
"There's a lot of commitments .. to kind of tone things down, to stand down. If that holds I think it is promising. I think there is a chance that you can at least begin a process of deconflicting," Otaiba said, adding that time would tell whether this would hold to enable "some kind of concept of a solution".
Qatar has also been more cautious in public remarks, with its foreign minister voicing hope that things would move in the right direction.
The boycotting nations accuse Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar, which hosts the region's largest U.S. military base.
Doha had been set 13 demands, ranging from closing Al Jazeera television and shuttering a Turkish base to cutting links to the Muslim Brotherhood and downgrading ties with Iran.
*This story has been edited by Ahram Online.