US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also called for Qatar and the other Arab countries to “sit together” to work through the list.
DOHA (AP) — A memorandum of understanding, aimed to shore up Qatar’s counter-terrorism efforts, was signed between the United States and the Gulf nation on Tuesday.
The agreement was signed during US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to the energy-rich country.
His trip to the Gulf is an effort to end a rift between Qatar and four Arab states, namely Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Senior Tillerson adviser RC Hammond said the deal outlines “future efforts Qatar can take to fortify its fight against terrorism and actively address terrorism funding issues.”
Tillerson also visited Kuwait on Monday and held talks with the country’s ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who has been acting as a mediator between Qatar and four states lined up against it.
It is pertinent to mention that US President Donald Trump, wading into a deep rift among Arab states, had said last month his trip to the Middle East was “already paying off”, as governments there took a hard new line in accusing Qatar of funding militant groups.
Trump’s blunt remarks cast the anti-Islamist speech he gave at a Riyadh summit in May as the inspiration for a decision by Arab powers to sever ties and transport links to Qatar in protest at what they say is its support for terrorism.
“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” Trump said on Twitter.
The feud between the Arab states had erupted on June 5, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and travel links with Qatar, accusing it of courting regional foe Iran and sponsoring terrorist outfits.
Qatar denied the allegations.
The four countries later sent Doha a list of 13 demands, including closing the state-funded Al Jazeera television station and reducing ties to Iran, with a 10-day deadline.
Doha, however, said it was ready to discuss “legitimate issues” with Arab states to end the crisis but some demands were impossible to meet “because the underlying accusation was untrue”.
“We cannot ‘sever links with so-called Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah’ because no such links exist,” their foreign minister had said.
“And we cannot ‘expel any members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’ because there are none in Qatar.”
“The response the four states got was overall negative and lacked any content. We find it did not provide a basis for Qatar to retreat from its policies,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said after the deadline expired.
“The political and economic boycott will continue until Qatar changes its policies for the better,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference.
The United States later said some demands on Qatar by its Middle East neighbours “will be very difficult to meet.”
Tillerson said in a statement that a list of demands from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates included major areas that “provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to a resolution.”
He also called for Qatar and the other Arab countries to “sit together” to work through the list.
Tillerson also called for a “lowering of rhetoric” to “help ease the tension.”
Kuwait, which retained ties with Qatar, is trying to mediate in the dispute with the support of the United States.