Gulf diplomatic crisis: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Saudi officials to end rift

Dubai: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with his Saudi counterpart on Wednesday as he looks to end a rift between Qatar and four Arab states.

His trip from Kuwait to the western Saudi city of Jiddah follows talks the previous day with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. He has also held discussions with the ruler of Kuwait, who is mediating the dispute.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and the Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. AP

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. AP

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and cut air, sea and land routes with it more than a month ago, accusing it of supporting extremist groups. Qatar denies the allegation.

Tillerson met with Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir on arrival in the Red Sea city. He is expected to meet with officials from the rest of the quartet later in the day before returning to Kuwait.

He will likely press the quartet to ease up on some of its demands after he secured a deal with Qatar on Tuesday to intensify its fight against terrorism and address shortfalls in policing terrorism funding.

The four countries last month issued a tough 13-point list of demands to Qatar that included shutting down its flagship Al-Jazeera network and other news outlets, cutting ties with Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country.

Qatar has rejected the demands, saying that agreeing to them wholesale would undermine its sovereignty.

The head of Qatar's government communication office, Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, on Tuesday accused the quartet of organising "a smear campaign in the international media to damage Qatar's reputation" and said they are "not interested in engaging in honest negotiations to resolve our differences."

The anti-Qatar bloc took partial credit for the US counterterrorism deal Qatar signed Tuesday, saying it was the result of "repeated pressures and demands" by them and others, but said it fails to go far enough.

While welcoming US-led efforts to dry up terrorist funding, they maintained a hard line that Qatar must meet their list of what they said were "fair and legitimate demands."

"The quartet affirms that the measures they have taken were motivated by the continuous and diversified activities of the Qatari authorities in supporting, funding and harboring terrorism and terrorists, as well as promoting hateful and extremist rhetoric and interfering in the internal affairs of states," they said in a joint statement.

The squabble among five of its West Asian allies has put the United States in an uncomfortable position and risks complicating the Pentagon's operations in the region.

Qatar hosts al-Udeid Air Base, the largest US military installation in West Asia and hub for US-led operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, while American surveillance planes and other aircraft fly from the UAE.


Published Date: Jul 12, 2017 03:55 pm | Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 03:55 pm


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