Tillerson visits Qatar in new push to end Gulf crisis

Top US diplomat holds talks in Qatar after visit to Saudi Arabia as part of renewed efforts to resolve diplomatic rift.

Doha, Qatar – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Saudi Arabia is not willing to begin direct talks to resolve the Gulf diplomatic crisis, as his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, expressed frustration over the behaviour of the four countries blockading Qatar.  

The diplomats made the comments on Sunday during Tillerson’s visit to Qatar, where he arrived following a stop in Saudi Arabia as part of a new push to end the months-long dispute.

In a joint news conference with Mohammed bin Abdulrahman in Qatar’s capital, Doha, Tillerson said he is not hopeful Saudi Arabia is willing to enter discussions to resolve the crisis.

“In my meetings with [Saudi] Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, I asked him to please engage in dialogue, [but] there is not a strong indication that parties are ready to talk yet,” said Tillerson, referring to his earlier discussions in Riyadh.

“We cannot force talks upon people who are not ready to talk.”

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a land, air and sea blockade on their Gulf neighbour, accusing it of financing “terrorism” and maintaining too close of ties to their regional rival, Iran. Doha denies the allegations.

Tillerson, who also met Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, expressed concern about the effect of the crisis on the region’s stability. 

“It’s very important for the GCC to continue to pursue unity,” he told reporters, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a bloc that includes Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman as its members.

“It is most effective when it is unified and none of us can afford to let this dispute linger,” he added, renewing a call for dialogue to resolve the dispute.

“We ask that everyone minimises the rhetoric and de-escalate the tensions and take steps to do so.”

‘Threat to collective security’

For his part, Qatar’s foreign minister said the Saudi-led group was not ready “to tackle with dialogue the reasons for this crisis”.

“These countries have resorted to undiplomatic tactics that have nothing to do with modern diplomatic lessons, and this is no good,” he told reporters.

Still, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman reaffirmed Doha’s commitment to dialogue and emphasised the need for the crisis to be resolved.

“The GCC is quite important for the collective security and we feel sorry that the GCC will be the victim of the crisis against the state of Qatar,” he said.


“This has affected directly the collective security of the GCC because of the behaviour of the blockading countries.”

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said Tillerson was “firm but not aggressive”.

“I’ve never heard Tillerson more clear than he is today, about the roots of the crisis and how to resolve it and who is guilty of not making progress … namely the four countries for being unwilling to engage in dialogue.”

Earlier on Sunday, Tillerson participated in the inaugural meeting of the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee in Riyadh, along with Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The committee aims to improve ties between Iraq and Saudi Arabia that have long been regional rivals. 

Ali Younes contributed to this report. Follow him on Twitter: @ali_reports

Source: Al Jazeera