Tillerson looks to defuse Qatar crisis on Gulf tour

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KUWAIT CITY: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived Monday in Kuwait, the key mediator between Qatar and its Arab neighbors, for talks aimed at defusing the Gulf’s worst crisis in years.

Tillerson will shuttle between Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia until Thursday in what is the first serious intervention by Washington in the Gulf crisis.

He immediately held talks with Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah who is leading the mediation effort between the Gulf states, the official KUNA news agency reported.

Tillerson also met Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah.


British National Security Advisor Mark Sedwill, who was also received by the emir, attended part of the meeting which discussed the Gulf crisis.

Kuwait, the United States and Britain issued a joint statement following the talks, appealing to the Gulf foes “to quickly contain the current crisis and resolve it at the earliest through dialogue,” according to a statement cited by the KUNA news agency.Tillerson will travel on Tuesday to Qatar for talks with leaders there before returning to Kuwait later in the day.

The dispute has seen a Saudi-led alliance impose sanctions on Doha over its alleged ties to both Islamist extremist groups and Shiite-dominated Iran.

As they met in Egypt last week, Saudi Arabia and its allies said they planned to tighten sanctions against the gas-rich emirate, after Qatar refused to comply with a list of demands.

A spokesman for Tillerson said ahead of his landing in Kuwait that it remained to be seen “if there’s even a possibility of some outcomes” towards resolving the crisis.

“Right now, after Egypt, we’re months away from what we think would be an actual resolution and that’s very discouraging,” RC Hammond told reporters.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt abruptly severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, suspending transport links with Doha and ordering all Qataris to repatriate within 14 days.

Ability to maneuver
The four nations later issued a list of 13 demands to be met to lift the sanctions, including that Qatar shut down broadcaster Al-Jazeera, close a Turkish military base and downgrade diplomatic ties with Iran.

Hammond said that the demands were not viable, at least as a package. “Individually there are things in there that could work.”

“This is a two-way street,” he said of a dispute among parties that each have been accused of funding extremists in some way.

“There are no clean hands.”

Qatar refused to meet the demands last week on the grounds they undermined its national sovereignty. It has also categorically denied having any ties to extremist groups.

The Saudi-led alliance accused Qatar late Monday of failing to meet its commitments under the so-called Riyadh agreement of 2013 and its supplements signed the following year after a diplomatic spat.

The accusation came after CNN showed papers from the Riyadh agreements under which Qatar and other Gulf states had pledged to combat terror funding.

AFP

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