U.S. signals impatience with Arabs over Qatar
In a dramatic shift, the Trump administration on Tuesday demanded that Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries boycotting Qatar detail their complaints about the small Persian Gulf monarchy’s support for extremism and reach a speedy resolution to the diplomatic crisis.
The comments suggested that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was losing patience in a mediation attempt, an effort to patch up a damaging split among key U.S. allies in the region.
The State Department said it was “mystified” that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates had not yet made clear their claims against Qatar or what they want to end the blockade announced earlier this month. Using the word “embargo” several times, spokeswoman Heather Nauert also questioned if the actions were a response to Qatari support for extremism, as the Saudis and others claim, or reflect other tensions.
“Now that it’s been more than two weeks since the embargo started, we are mystified that the Gulf States have not released to the public nor to the Qataris, the details about the claims that they are making toward Qatar,” she told reporters. “The more the time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
“At this point we are left with one simple question,” Ms. Nauert added. “Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism or were they about the long-simmering grievances?”
Ms. Nauert noted that Mr. Tillerson had held more than 20 phone calls and in-person meetings with senior officials from the countries involved since the crisis erupted earlier this month. Mr. Tillerson also canceled a scheduled trip to an Organization of American States meeting this week in Mexico to work the Qatar crisis. He will remain engaged, Ms. Nauert said, but wants results.
The Qatari foreign minister is expected to come to Washington next week to discuss the crisis. Ms. Nauert called on all parties to fight terrorism and meet commitments they made when President Trump visited Saudi Arabia last month.
The Trump administration has sent mixed signals on the long-running quarrel that broke out between Qatar and other Gulf Arab states. Mr. Trump on Twitter suggested the move was a fruit of his recent trip to the region, appearing to side with Saudi Arabia and other states that the move was a drive by Muslim states themselves to punish states that underwrite terrorism.