Qatar should kick out Hamas if negotiations fail, senators say

The statement was led by the chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sens. Ben Cardin and Jim Risch

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Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (L) and Secretary of State Antony Blinken enter the Treaty Room of the State Department on March 05, 2024 in Washington, DC. Secretary of State Blinken and Qatari Prime Minister Al Thani held strategic dialogue amid Israel-Hamas cease-fire negotiations.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by the chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — some of the Senate’s most senior foreign policy figures — issued a joint statement on Friday urging Qatar to expel Hamas if hostage negotiations fail.

The statement suggests growing support among the senior ranks of Congress for more pressure on Qatar and Hamas, as the terrorist group continues to reject hostage deal proposals, and a desire for a change in the status quo of Hamas’ relationship with the U.S. ally. But the statement generally takes a light touch toward Qatar, avoiding direct condemnations.

“If Hamas refuses reasonable negotiations, there is no reason for Qatar to continue hosting Hamas’ political office or any of its members in Doha,” the statement reads. “It is incumbent upon like-minded nations to work together to deny terrorist organizations, like Hamas, the financial support or safe havens that allow them to metastasize or seek legitimacy.”

The statement was issued by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jim Risch (R-ID), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ted Budd (R-NC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV). Cardin and Risch are the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Foreign Relations Committee, while Coons chairs the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee on the Senate Appropriations Committee and is a close ally of President Joe Biden.

“We appreciate the work Qatar has undertaken so far to mediate the release of hostages and urge Qatar to redouble its efforts and use all its leverage to secure the immediate release of all those taken by Hamas in its heinous October 7 attack,” the statement continues.

The statement steers clear of direct criticism of Qatar, otherwise offering praise for the kingdom.

“The United States and Qatar have enjoyed close relations and cooperation on economic and security issues for more than 50 years,” it reads. “This has been acutely important in the aftermath of the horrific events of October 7th and Hamas’ ongoing holding of more than 134 hostages, including at least 8 Americans.”

The statement continues, “Qatar is a vital U.S. partner in maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East, and we look forward to 50 more years of even stronger partnership.”

The letter’s language is notably less caustic toward the Qatari government than other public statements by some of its signatories, particularly Ernst and Budd, who’ve been openly critical of Qatar, accusing it of not doing enough to free the hostages.

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