Rex Tillerson says Qatar's Gulf neighbours should lift blockade

US secretary of state urges countries to take positive action and says efforts to isolate Qatar are negatively affecting its citizens

The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has tried to push Qatar’s Gulf neighbours back to the negotiating table, saying it was time for them to take some positive action by lifting their economic blockade on the oil-rich state.

Tillerson said Saudi-led efforts to isolate Qatar were having a negative effect on the Qatari people, adding: “I hope as a sign of good faith they will lift that blockade. That would be a positive development.”

His remarks represent the clearest reproach to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain since the dispute began in June, and – even if Tillerson may sympathise with some of their motives – leaves their anti-Qatar alliance scrambling for a new diplomatic strategy.

The UAE this week said it expected a prolonged stalemate in the dispute and gave no hint it would be willing to left the blockade to allow talks to start.

The four states had been relying on the support of Donald Trump, but Tillerson is unlikely to have made such clear remarks unless he was increasingly confident his view was now the dominant opinion in Washington.

Last week, Tillerson praised Qatar for becoming the first state in the region to sign a new memorandum of understanding with Washington on tracking the flow of terrorist financing.

Speaking in Washington on Friday, he said Qatar had been “very aggressive” in implementing the agreement to address concerns over terrorism and terror financing.

“So we are satisfied with the effort they are putting it forward,” Tillerson said. “I think they have also indicated a willingness to sit with the four parties and negotiate and discuss the four demands. They have indicated that the sovereignty and dignity of all five countries most be preserved.”

Tillerson said it would be “a good sign” if the four countries lifted their blockade, which has closed most air routes, as well as the Qatar’s only land border, and forced it to arrange emergency food shipments from elsewhere.

Tillerson’s remarks came in a meeting with the Oman foreign minister, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah.

On Friday, the UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, welcomed the latest Qatar move to counter terrorism.

“It is a positive step to deal seriously with the list of 59 terrorists,” Gargash tweeted. “The pressure linked to the crisis has begun to bear fruit.”

But he repeated his demands for Qatar to reorient its policies in order to ease the crisis with its Arab neighbours. “It would be wiser [for Qatar] to totally change its (political) orientation,” he said.

The four countries have tried to strengthen their diplomatic standing in Washington in recent days by highlighting six principle demands, as opposed to a previous maximalist set of 13 demands tabled in private and subsequently leaked.

France, Germany and the UK have each sent diplomats to the Gulf in an effort to mediate, and the UK has offered to act a guarantor of any agreement. A previous deal designed to rein in Qatar’s independent foreign policy, as well as the Doha-funded broadcaster al-Jazeera signed in 2013 was broken by Qatar, the other Gulf states claim, so requiring any new deal to be monitored by a third party.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is allied with Qatar is scheduled to visit the region this weekend.

A US State Department 2016 review of worldwide terrorism produced this week made hardly any criticism of Qatar’s efforts to defeat terrorism but ironically was more critical of Saudi.

Contributor

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Rex Tillerson applauds Qatar plan but Gulf rivals refuse to lift sanctions
US secretary of state praises agreement on tracking terrorist financing, putting pressure on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states isolating Qatar

Patrick Wintour diplomatic editor

11, Jul, 2017 @6:58 PM

Article image
Qatar responds to Gulf neighbours' demands
Foreign minister delivers Doha’s reply to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain after deadline was extended by 48 hours

Patrick Wintour and agencies

03, Jul, 2017 @12:06 PM

Article image
Erdoğan rejects Saudi demand to pull Turkish troops out of Qatar
Turkey’s president condemns request as a ‘very ugly approach’ and dismisses other demands made of Qatar by Gulf states

Martin Chulov

25, Jun, 2017 @4:22 PM

Article image
Gulf crisis: Boris Johnson urges Qatar to crack down on extremists
UK foreign secretary also calls on Gulf states to ease blockade in his first intervention in two-week-long clash

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

12, Jun, 2017 @4:51 PM

Article image
Arab states scorn 'evil' Iran
US embassy cables reveal Tehran's reputation as a meddling, lying troublemaker intent on building nuclear weapons

Ian Black, Middle East editor

28, Nov, 2010 @6:17 PM

Article image
Russian hackers to blame for sparking Qatar crisis, FBI inquiry finds
Gulf state isolated by neighbours after freelance hacking operation planted fake news to discredit emir over his Islamist links

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

07, Jun, 2017 @3:40 PM

Article image
Qatar seeks compensation over Arab blockade
Qatari attorney general says country would pursue compensation claims against rivals Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

09, Jul, 2017 @6:56 PM

Article image
Saudi demands for restoring relations with Qatar not viable, says US
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in the Gulf to mediate between Qatar and neighbours after suspension of ties between them

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

10, Jul, 2017 @6:36 PM

Article image
Gulf divisions widen as Qatar accused of 'snubbing' meeting
Qatar criticised for sending junior minister to annual meeting of Gulf states

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

09, Dec, 2018 @3:37 PM

Article image
Gulf states prepare to ramp up economic sanctions against Qatar
Diplomats speaking before Cairo meeting of foreign ministers indicate Doha could be suspended from Gulf Co-operation Council

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

04, Jul, 2017 @1:58 PM