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Tillerson Travels to Kuwait in Hopes of Brokering Qatar Deal

FILE - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) meets with ‎Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, June 27, 2017, at the State Department in Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travels to Kuwait Monday to try to help broker a deal between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors.

Kuwait has tried to mediate a resolution between the small monarchy on the Arabian Peninsula and its neighbors, but has been unsuccessful so far.

Tillerson met with top Qatari and Kuwaiti officials late last month in an effort to end the escalating standoff, but he is apparently taking a more hands-on role in the negotiations with his trip to Kuwait. The secretary of state has emphasized the need for all parties to exercise restraint to allow for productive diplomatic discussions.

Gulf neighbors cut ties

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have imposed trade and diplomatic embargoes on Qatar. The Saudi-led group has suspended all relations with Qatar and has accused the oil-rich nation of supporting extremist groups and destabilizing the region, claims Qatar has denied.

The Gulf states have also shown no willingness to ease their 13-point list of demands, which includes calls for Qatar to downgrade its relations with Iran and close the Qatari-state-funded Al-Jazeera news network.

“We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks. It could drag on for months,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said last week, about the row among the Gulf states.

Trump weighed in

After his first trip abroad to Saudi Arabia, U.S. President Donald Trump, weighed in on the Qatar crisis, albeit in a way that contrasted his views with those of his secretary of state.

“The nation of Qatar unfortunately has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” Trump said last month, “and in the wake of that GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] nations came together and spoke to me about confronting Qatar over its behavior.”

After the Saudis and their neighbors instituted a land, air and sea blockade of Qatar, Iran and Turkey promised to help the Qataris weather the diplomatic crisis.

US bases

Tillerson said in a statement: “Our role has been to encourage the parties to get their issues on the table, clearly articulated, so that those issues can be addressed and some resolution process can get under way to bring this to a conclusion.”

Qatar hosts the largest U.S. military base in the region, Al Udeid Air Base, while Bahrain, which is allied with Saudi Arabia in its anti-Qatar stance, is home port for the U.S. Fifth Fleet.