Top US diplomat seeks way out of Gulf impasse
14 July, 2017
The US State Secretary Rex Tillerson travelled to the Gulf last week in attempt to break the deadlock between tiny Qatar and four of its much bigger neighbours, news wires reported. Last Wednesday he wrapped up talks with the king of Saudi Arabia and officials from other Arab countries lined up against Qatar with no sign of a breakthrough in an increasingly entrenched dispute that has divided some of the US most important Mideast allies.
The State Secretary’s trip from Kuwait to the western Saudi city of Jeddah followed discussions the previous day with the Qatar Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, that ended with the signing of a counterterrorism pact. Saudi Arabia, the UAEs, Egypt and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and cut air, sea and land routes with it over a month ago, namely accusing Doha of supporting extremist groups.
The quartet has given no indication it would be willing to back off from its hard stance. Just hours before Tillerson's arrival in Jeddah, the four Arab states said the counterterrorism deal that Qatar signed with him last Tuesday was “not enough”. Tillerson's visit to Saudi Arabia included talks with King Salman and his powerful son Mohammed bin Salman. He also met with the foreign ministers of the four countries in the anti-Qatar bloc.
Officials gave little indication of what was discussed, but Tillerson was likely to press the bloc to ease up on some of its demands after he secured the deal for Qatar to intensify its fight against terrorism and address shortfalls in policing terrorism funding. He travelled back to Qatar last Thursday for more talks with the emir and was expected to deliver a readout of his meetings with the Saudi king and other Arab officials. Tillerson has been shuttling between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and mediator Kuwait since last Monday.