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Gulf countries severing ties with Qatar is hindering fight against Islamic State, says US

Washington: The US on Friday appealed to Saudi Arabia and its regional allies to ease their blockade of Qatar, saying it is hindering US military actions in the region and the fight against the Islamic State.

"Now, the situation in the Arabian Gulf over the last few days is troubling to the United States, the region, and to many people who are directly affected,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.

"We call for calm and thoughtful dialogue with clear expectations and accountability among the parties in order to strengthen relationships. We ask that there be no further escalation by the parties in the region," he said.

File image of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. AP

File image of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. AP

Tillerson also called on Qatar to be responsive to the concerns of its neighbours.

"Qatar has a history of supporting groups that have spanned the spectrum of political expression, from activism to violence,” he said.

He added that the emir of Qatar has made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorist elements from his country, but he must do more, and he must do it more quickly.

"Others must also continue to eliminate factions of support for violent organisations within their own borders," Tillerson said.

Again, that was a commitment made by all at the summit. "We call on the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar,” Tillerson said.

He said the blockade is hindering US military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS. "We support the emir of Kuwait's efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution to this agreement, and progress toward eliminating all forms of support for terrorism — military, financial, moral, or ideological. Yes, we'll support these mediation efforts, along with the emir of Kuwait,” Tillerson said.

The biggest US air base in West Asia is in Qatar and around 10,000 personnel work there in support of several allied operations in Iraq, Syria, and around the region. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have cut ties with Qatar, accusing their former Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ally of supporting extremist groups.

Tillerson, whom Trump has tasked with de-escalating the dispute, said it is "troubling to the United States, the region and to many people who are directly affected."

"There are humanitarian consequences to this blockade. We're seeing shortages of food, families are being forcibly separated, and children are being pulled out of school. We believe these are unintended consequences, especially during this holy month of Ramadan, but they can be addressed immediately," he said.

Noting that the blockade is also impairing US and other international business activities in the region, Tillerson said it has created a hardship on the people of Qatar, and the people whose livelihoods depend on commerce with the Gulf nation.

Referring to the conversations that he had with leaders of the Gulf countries, Tillerson said it is clear to him based that the elements of a solution are available.

"The GCC must emerge united and stronger to show the world the GCC's resolve in its fight against violence and terrorism, and its commitment to countering the threat from terrorism,” he said.

Updated Date: Jun 10, 2017 09:43 AM

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