Tillerson Signals Impatience With Saudi-Led Allies Over Qatar
EghtesadOnline: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s spokeswoman signaled his patience is wearing thin as a dispute between a Saudi Arabia-led coalition and Qatar drags into a third week, saying the U.S. is “mystified” that the group hasn’t done more to show how the country can end its isolation.
Tillerson, who canceled a June 19 trip to Mexico to focus on mediating the Qatar crisis, has had more than 20 calls and meetings with various parties and believes they need to “speed this along” and resolve their differences, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported.
The comments appear to mark yet another shift in message from President Donald Trump’s administration. Soon after the Saudi coalition severed diplomatic, trade and transport links to Qatar over its funding of extremist groups and relations with Iran on June 6, the president praised the move on Twitter, citing Qatar’s history of “funding Radical Ideology.” On June 9, Tillerson called on Saudi Arabia to ease what he called its “blockade,” only to have Trump, at a White House news conference hours later, say the move had been the right one.
Nauert’s comments suggest U.S. frustration is building, especially toward the Saudi alliance that Trump has praised.
‘We Are Mystified’
“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 they are making toward Qatar,” Nauert said. “The more that time goes by the more doubt that is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.”
The feud began earlier this month when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt abruptly cut ties. Qatar denies accusations it supports terrorism and countered that Saudi Arabia is seeking to dominate smaller states within the region. Qatar Foreign Minister Mohammed Al Thani told reporters June 19 that his country has yet to receive any formal demands.
Nauert echoed that complaint, saying, “At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism or were they about the long-simmering grievances” between and among Mideast neighbors.
While Tillerson has been speaking to all parties, Nauert said the U.S. wasn’t planning to play a formal mediation role. She said conversations would continue but suggested Tillerson wanted a resolution soon.
“There comes a certain point where you say, ‘Folks, you know, let’s get this done, let’s get this moving along,’” Nauert said. “The secretary likes results.”
The flare-up in the Gulf puts the U.S. in a difficult position because it’s allied with nations on both sides of the dispute. Qatar hosts the regional headquarters for the U.S. Central Command, which includes a state-of-the-art air base the Pentagon depends on to target Islamic State.