North Carolina Republican US Sens. Ted Budd and Thom Tillis joined a bipartisan contingent of senators on Friday urging Qatar to step up the pressure in negotiations with Hamas for the release of 134 hostages, including 8 Americans, with one of them being Chapel Hill native Keith Siegel.

Budd and Tillis joined Sens Ben Cardin, D-MD, and Jim Risch, R-ID, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as Sens. Joni Ernst, R-IA, Chris Coons, D-DE, Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, and Jacky Rosen, D-NV, to issue a statement.

The senators said the two countries have enjoyed close relations and cooperation on economic and security issues for more than 50 years. They say it has been acutely important in the aftermath of the horrific events of Oct. 7 and Hamas’ ongoing holding of more than 134 hostages, including at least eight Americans. 

“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 reads.“If Hamas refuses reasonable negotiations, there is no reason for Qatar to continue hosting Hamas’ political office or any of its members in Doha. 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 senators concluded by saying that Qatar is a vital US partner in maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East, and they look forward to 50 more years of even stronger partnership.

US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Ranking Member Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, X page.

Qatari and Egyptian mediators believe significant progress was made this week toward securing a truce between Israel and Hamas after talks appeared dead in the water, a senior Arab diplomat told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden gave Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer high praise Friday for criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that a “new election is the only way” to end the tension between Israel and the Palestinian people. 

Biden also said that many Americans felt the same way Schumer did. 

Budd and Tillis hosted Siegel’s family at President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address on March 7.

Budd got a firsthand look in January at the devastation left by Hamas terrorists during the Oct. 7 massacre at Kibbutz Nir Oz in Israel, along with a bipartisan, bicameral congressional delegation (CODEL) to the Middle East.

On a January call, he told reporters that the delegation shared with the Qataris a recounting of events by Adrienne “Aviva” Siegel, Keith’s wife. She was kidnapped along with her husband on Oct. 7 but released at the end of November. Their main goal then was the same as it is now: pressure those with connections to Hamas to do everything they can to get the hostages home.

That included Qatar’s Prime Minster, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, whom Budd met with during the trip.

“While our two nations are friends, sometimes friends have to be honest with one another,” he said. “I told the prime minister in no uncertain terms that his mission must do more to secure the release of American hostages, including Keith Siegel. Because Qatar is host to senior members of Hamas leadership and the primary mediators between Hamas and Israel, they hold significant leverage over the terrorist group, and we expect them to use it.”