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US praises Qatar’s fight against terrorism and calls for blockade to be lifted

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the the President Trumps proposed 2018 budget for the State Department in Washington, USA on 13 June, 2017 [Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency]
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the the President Trumps proposed 2018 budget for the State Department in Washington, USA on 13 June, 2017 [Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency]

The US Secretary of State said on Friday that America is satisfied with Qatar’s efforts to implement an agreement signed last week which aims to combat the financing of terrorism. Rex Tillerson also called on Arab countries to lift the “land blockade” imposed on Doha.

Tillerson has visited a number of Gulf States to persuade them to help solve the worst regional political crisis in years, but he left without any clear signs that a resolution is on the way. Nevertheless, he did sign the agreement with Qatar in an attempt to ease the crisis, although those opposed to Doha said that this was “not enough” to dispel their fears.

The Secretary of State told reporters before a meeting with Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Yusuf Bin Alawi that the Qataris are implementing the agreement “fully, so I think we are satisfied with their efforts,” Reuters reported. “Qatar is ready to negotiate with the four countries [Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt] and discuss their demands. But it is important for Doha to respect the sovereignty and dignity of [itself as well as the other four] during these discussions.”

He expressed his hope that the four blockading countries will consider, as a gesture of goodwill, the lifting of the land blockade. “I think that this has the worst impact on the people of Qatar,” Tillerson added.

Read: The embarrassment of Saudi and the UAE exposes regional misfortunes

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar on the grounds of its alleged support for terrorism. The government in Doha denied the allegations, saying that it faced a “campaign of fabrications and lies” which aims to control its national decision-making.

A list of 13 conditions for the restoration of diplomatic and other ties were submitted to Qatar on 22 June through Kuwait; these included the closure of the Al-Jazeera network. Doha dismissed the demands as “unrealistic, unbalanced, illogical and unworkable.” The conditions have subsequently been reduced to a commitment to six principles already agreed by Gulf Cooperation Council members, including Qatar.

According to Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, “There is no room for negotiations with Qatar, because it is not about negotiations, but about whether there is support for terrorism or not.” He made his comment at a joint press conference in Rome with his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano. “Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE have clear principles that must be implemented,” he added. “Qatar must stop supporting or funding terrorism, providing shelter to terrorists and stop the hate speech.”

Read: Qatar targeted by ‘unprecedented’ campaign: Emir

Last week, Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Shaikh Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani said that his country is ready to talk with the blockading countries on the basis of mutual respect and international law. “Whoever has been following the Gulf crisis,” he explained in Ankara, “will be sure that it was built on fabrications and not facts or discussions.”

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