Rex Tillerson hopes Qatar blockade will be lifted

Secretary of State calls for an end to siege of Qatar, saying US is happy with its efforts at combating terror funding.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson applauded Qatar's 'aggressive' efforts at curbing terror funding [File:Reuters]

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged Arab states to lift a “land blockade” on Qatar, saying the US is satisfied with the Gulf nation’s efforts to implement an agreement aimed at combating terror financing.

“They have been very aggressive in implementing that agreement, so I think we’re satisfied with the effort they’re putting forth,” Tillerson told reporters just before meeting with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah at the State Department on Friday.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt imposed sanctions on Qatar last month, accusing it of financing extremist groups and allying with their arch-foe Iran, allegations that Doha denies.

The July 12 agreement between Qatar and the US seeks to “track down and disable terror financing” and was signed during a visit to Doha by Tillerson.

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Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani issued a decree on Thursday setting new rules for defining terrorism, freezing funding and terrorism financing, and established national terrorism lists.

The UAE welcomed the new rules on Friday in one of the first positive signs from the four Arab states since they cut diplomatic, commercial and transport links on June 5. 

Their sanctions include closing Qatar’s only land border, refusing Qatar access to their airspace and ordering their citizens back from Qatar.

The measures have disrupted the import of food and other items, and caused foreign banks to scale back business with Qatar.

“I hope the four countries will consider as a sign of good faith lifting this land blockade which is really having the most, I think negative effects on the Qatari people,” Tillerson said.

He added that Qatar was willing to sit with the four countries to discuss their demands to end sanctions, but that it was important to Doha “that the sovereignty and dignity of all five countries be respected in those discussions”. 

The Saudi-led group initially issued a 13-point list of demands, which included the shutdown of Al Jazeera, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country. 

Doha rejected the demands, and the blockading countries later issued a modified list of six demands.

Several Western diplomats have visited the Gulf over the past two weeks in an effort to ease the dispute, yet no breakthrough has been achieved.

Source: Reuters