Tillerson blames Saudi bloc for impasse in Qatar crisis

Tillerson blames Saudi bloc for impasse in Qatar crisis
2 min read
20 October, 2017
The US will again try to resolve a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads back to the region to visit Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Tillerson will head back to the region for visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. [Getty]

The United States will again try to resolve a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads back to the region this weekend for visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut diplomatic relations with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and cozying up to Iran.

Qatar has categorically denied the allegations.

"I do not have a lot of expectations for it being resolved anytime soon," Tillerson admitted on Thursday, in an interview with the Bloomberg news agency.

"There seems to be a real unwillingness on the part of some of the parties to want to engage."

The sides have been at an impasse since June, despite efforts by Kuwait - and a previous unsuccessful trip by Tillerson in July - to mediate the crisis.

"It's up to the leadership of the quartet when they want to engage with Qatar because Qatar has been very clear - they're ready to engage," he said.

"Our role is to try to ensure lines of communication are as open as we can help them be, that messages not be misunderstood," he said.

"We're ready to play any role we can to bring them together but at this point it really is now up to the leadership of those countries."

Riyadh's demands are not entirely clear, but they include the closure of media outlets such as Al Jazeera and The New Arab, mothballing a Turkish military base in Qatar, and payment of "compensation" to Gulf states and Egypt.

"The problem is that people, mainly the Saudis and the Emiratis, don't want to lose face", Simon Henderson, a veteran of the region now at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, said.

"It needs America to step in, but to save face, they should try to make this a Gulf-mediated enterprise with American support."

Kuwait has tried to serve at a mediator, with US support, but the parties have yet to sit down face-to-face.

Earlier this week, Qatar’s emir urged neighbouring states to lift an "unfair" four-month-old blockade and said he's ready to open talks to end the diplomatic crisis.

Qatar is home to the Middle East's largest US military base, where over 11,000 soldiers are stationed.