US mediation in Gulf makes little progress
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended talks with ministers from Saudi Arabia and three Arab allies on Wednesday over how to end a monthlong rift with Qatar, but there was no immediate word of any breakthrough.
Tillerson returned to Kuwait, the mediator between the feuding Gulf countries, without making any statement on his talks in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah. He had signed a US-Qatari accord on terrorism financing on Wednesday, but Qatar’s opponents said it fell short of allaying their concerns.
Any resolution of the impasse must address all the key issues for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, a senior UAE official said before the talks in Saudi Arabia.
The four countries imposed sanctions on Qatar on June 5, accusing it of financing extremist groups and allying with their archfoe Iran. Doha denies those accusations. The four states and Qatar are all US allies.
Tillerson met the foreign ministers to try to end the worst dispute in decades among the US-allied Gulf Arab states. He also met separately with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss cooperation in combating terrorism and its financing.
“We’re happy to see this continuous cooperation between us and (to) even strengthen it and increase it further without limits ...” Mohammed bin Salman said in welcoming Tillerson.
US officials said Tillerson would travel to Qatar on Thursday to brief the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, on his talks in Jeddah, State Department spokesman R.C. Hammonds said.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan told reporters during a visit to Slovakia that Tillerson’s visit was unlikely to resolve the row.
“I think it will ease ten- sions, but it’s just postponing the problem, which will grow in the future.”
After Tillerson and his Qatari counterpart signed their counterterrorism pact on Tuesday, the four states warned that this was “not enough”.
They also reinstated 13 wide-ranging demands they had earlier submitted to Qatar, the world’s biggest producer of liquefied natural gas, as a condition for removing sanctions.
I think it will ease tensions, but it’s just postponing the problem, which will grow in the future.” Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan, UAE Foreign Minister
The demands include curbing Qatar’s relations with Iran, closing the Dohabased Al Jazeera TV channel, shutting a Turkish military base in Qatar and handing over all designated “terrorists” on its territory.
France also said its foreign minister would visit the Gulf, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, this week, as part of its own efforts to overcome the rift.
The United States worries the crisis could affect its military and counterterrorism operations and increase the regional influence of Iran, which has been supporting Qatar by allowing it to use air and sea links through its territory.
Qatar hosts Udeid Air Base, the largest US military facility in the Middle East, from which US-led coalition aircraft stage sorties against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.