Tillerson to join Arab quartet talks in attempt to mediate Qatari crisis
File photo of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. [Photo: news.china.com]
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will join a meeting of foreign ministers of four Arab countries boycotting Qatar on Wednesday, amid intensified diplomatic efforts to mediate the crisis.
Tillerson and foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt will meet in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on coordinating efforts to deal with Qatar in the future, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
Tillerson is currently visiting the Gulf in a bid to calm down tensions as the standoff continues between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc of Arab countries.
Led by Saudi Arabia, the four countries severed diplomatic ties with Qatar early last month and cut off sea, land and air links to the tiny rich Gulf nation, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, interfering in their internal affairs and seeking closer ties with Iran, a Saudi rival.
Qatar has strongly denied the charges against it, while rejecting a list of 13 demands put forward by the bloc for resuming diplomatic ties.
"The meeting would be convened in light of coordinating stances and stressing solidarity of the four Arab countries in future dealing with Qatar," the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said.
The meeting "underlines the four countries' commitment to the procedures taken against Qatar, based on its violation for international norms and laws, support for terrorism and extremism and Doha's negative intervention in the Arab countries' domestic affairs," it added.
Tillerson held a meeting in Kuwait City on Monday with Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and Britain's National Security Advisor Mark Sedwill to discuss the ways to defuse the crisis.
Kuwait, which plays as a mediator, the U.S. and Britain called for "a rapid end" to the standoff between Qatar and its Arab neighbors through dialogue as soon as possible.
After visiting Kuwait, Tillerson arrived in Qatar Tuesday to discuss the efforts for solving the Gulf crisis and means of combating terrorism.
The two sides signed signed a memorandum of understanding outlining future efforts for Qatar to step up fight against terrorism, media reports said.
The agreement also includes clauses on combating funding for terrorism. This tackled one of the core accusations against Qatar by the Saudi-led bloc, which criticized Doha for financing extremist Islamic groups that seek to destabilize their countries.
The extremist groups supported by Doha include the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip.
In a move to increase pressure on the tiny Gulf nation, the Saudi-led bloc said Monday that a recently published accord signed in 2013 showed Qatar has violated its obligations.
The U.S. news network CNN on Monday published the documents of a secret agreement reached at a meeting between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2013.
In the document, the parties agreed "not to interfere in the internal affairs of any GCC country, not to harbor or naturalize any GCC citizens who have activity contrary to the regulations of his country, unless the consent of his state, not to support the rogue groups and opposition to their countries."
The Saudi-led alliance said that their list of 13 demands handed to Qatar later last month is "fully in line with the spirit of what has been agreed upon."
The demands include closing the Al-Jazeera TV station, downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran, and ending support to terrorism.
Qatar, in response, has vehemently denied the charges by the Saudi-led bloc, while agreeing to resolve the crisis through talks.
At the same time, Doha has rejected the list of demands issued by the Saudi-led bloc, citing that it will not hold negotiations on issues that are related to its sovereignty.
R.C. Hammond, a senior adviser to Tillerson, reportedly said Monday that the quartet's demands on Qatar are not viable, though some of the individual terms on the list could work.
The U.S. is increasingly worried that the continued standoff in the Gulf could damage its counterterrorism operations in the region as it has a huge military base in Qatar, from where it has been launching airstrikes at terror targets in Syria and Iraq.