U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with top Qatari and Kuwaiti officials Tuesday to try to help broker an end to the escalating standoff between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors.
Three weeks after Saudi Arabia and other Arab states imposed trade and diplomatic embargoes on Qatar, Tillerson held talks in Washington with Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, foreign minister of Qatar, which has been a firm American ally.
The top U.S. diplomat has called for dialogue among the Gulf states as the best way to try to reach a diplomatic solution to their dispute. However, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have shown no willingness to ease their 13-point list of demands, which callS for Qatar to downgrade its relations with Iran and close the Qatari-state-funded Al Jazeera news network.
Tillerson met later Tuesday with Kuwait's Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Information, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah, and reaffirmed his strong support for Kuwait’s efforts to mediate the dispute between Qatar and the Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. secretary and his Kuwaiti visitor emphasized the need for all parties to exercise restraint to allow for productive diplomatic discussions. They also agreed that stopping terrorism and confronting extremism should be the shared and primary focus of all nations in the Gulf region.
Tillerson urged all sides to remain open to negotiations as the best way to resolve the dispute with Qatar. The small monarchy on the Arabian Peninsula 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.
The Saudi-led group suspended all relations and accused Qatar on June 5 of supporting extremist groups and destabilizing the region. Qatar has denied all such claims.
Recently back from his first trip abroad to Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump also has 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 earlier this 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 promised to help the Qataris weather the diplomatic crisis.
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."