As Tillerson Calls for Calm, Trump Calls Out Qatar on Terror

News Agency WAM the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah right is received by UAE Vice President Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to hold talks about Qatar

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday urged Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to ease their blockade, saying it was causing unintended humanitarian consequences and affecting the US-led fight against Islamic State.

Four Arab nations - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain - had cut ties with Qatar accusing it of support for Islamist militants and Iran, and reopening a festering wound two weeks after US President Donald Trump's demand for Muslim states to fight terrorism, according to reports.

In stressing the need to take action against Qatar, Trump appeared to undercut Tillerson, who had called on Qatar's neighbors to immediately ease their blockade. So we had a decision to make.

They released a joint statement listing as many as 18 individuals, including members of Qatar's royal family and a former minister as involved in "terrorist" activities. In the call with the Qatari leader, Mr. Trump said the USA wants a "united Gulf Cooperation Council to promote regional stability, but never at the expense of eliminating funding for radical extremism or defeating terrorism".

The state and defence departments have both highlighted that Doha is a key ally of Washington in the region - hosting the largest U.S. airbase in the Middle East.

But with ties Qatar and its neighbours severed, Asian Football Confederation general secretary Windsor John said the continental body was assessing events.

The government of Qatar has hired John Ashcroft, the U.S. attorney general during the September 11 attacks, as it seeks to rebut accusations from U.S. President Donald Trump and its Arab neighbours that it supports terrorism.

A senior White House official said it was a "misperception" that there was a policy difference between Tillerson and Trump, noting that they were stressing different parts of the same strategy.

Although US officers had previously denied the blockade was a problem, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said the "evolving situation is hindering our ability to plan for longer-term military operations". Other U.S. officials have said Qatar has already taken some steps to reduce terror funding but that the steps are insufficient.

Erdogan said Saudi Arabia, as the dominant Arab state in the Gulf region, should be leading efforts to unite the Arab "fraternity" there rather than dividing it. And as I said to all of them, we know you are stronger together.

"The emir of Qatar has made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorist elements from his country, but he must do more and he must do it more quickly", Tillerson said.

Tillerson's earlier statement that the "blockade" of Qatar is hurting USA economic and military efforts in the region contradicts Pentagon officials' insistence earlier in the week that there has been no impact on US operations in Qatar, or the fight against ISIS.

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