Rex Tillerson calls on Arab nations to ease blockade on Qatar

Rex Tillerson calls on Arab nations to ease blockade on Qatar”

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain welcomed on Saturday U.S. President Donald Trump's demand for Qatar to stop supporting terrorism, but did not respond to a U.S. Department of State call for them to ease pressure on the Gulf state.

The crisis started Monday when those four countries cut diplomatic ties and closed all land, sea and air borders with Qatar.

Tillerson said the blockade was causing "unintended" humanitarian and business consequences and was "hindering USA military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS", or the Islamic State terrorist group. Those have included supporting Islamic extremists and friendliness with Iran.

"Sorry, but we will continue to give all kinds of support to Qatar", he said.

The completely divergent stances echoed the diplomatic chaos we saw earlier this week when the president departed sharply from the lines that Tillerson and the United States ambassador to Qatar took in the immediate aftermath of the boycott.

Indeed, his tone and approach undercut that of Secretary Tillerson, who barely an hour earlier had delivered a more nuanced appeal for de-escalation, making clear he expected all parties to end the crisis.

He has also repeated allegations made by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi about Doha's alleged funding terrorism through a series of tweets.

A senior administration official, speaking after Trump's comments, acknowledged a difference in "tone" with Tillerson.

Saudi Arabia said an immediate change of policy by Qatar was essential. His embrace of Riyadh on a recent trip there seems to have influenced his thinking, and raised questions about the direction of any U.S. mediation.

Qatar's isolation is reportedly in reaction to a false news report planted by hackers on May 23, CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues reports.

Qatari planes were banned from using some of their neighbours' airspace.

In his desperation to take credit for Saudi's move, to showcase it as an example of his ability to shape global events, Trump appears to be throwing Qatar under the bus.

"The recent joint statement issued by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE regarding a "terror finance watch list" once again reinforces baseless allegations that hold no foundation in fact", the Qatari government said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The Pentagon said it agreed with Mr Tillerson's analysis of the impact of the blockade.

He also added that the blockade was causing "unintended consequences, especially during the holy month of Ramadan" and listed food shortages, the separation of family members, and the withdrawal of children from school as examples.

President Trump spoke on Friday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and emphasized the importance of maintaining unity among Arab countries, the White House said in a statement.

Tillerson was sitting in the front row. Qatar is home to the biggest American airbase in the region, with about 10,000 troops. The blockade is hindering USA military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS.

He said that "states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote".

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