Tillerson says demands on Qatar will be ‘very difficult’ to meet
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson criticised a 13-point list of demands on Qatar as “very difficult” to meet, warning that both Qatar and the group of Arab states behind the letter needed to tone down their rhetoric.
On Thursday, it was revealed that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt had given Qatar 10 days to comply with demands that included shutting down Al Jazeera, Doha’s international satellite television network, and paying reparations to its Arab neighbours.
Qatar has dismissed the demands as excessive, alleging that the ultimatum was about “limiting Qatar’s sovereignty”.
Mr Tillerson on Sunday said that Qatar had begun a “careful review and consideration” of the requests by its Arab neighbours.
“While some of the elements will be very difficult for Qatar to meet, there are significant areas which provide a basis for ongoing dialogue leading to resolution,” Mr Tillerson said in a statement — his first public comments on the list of demands.
He urged all five countries to sit down and “continue the conversation”.
The row has put the US in a tough position as it seeks to broker a peace between its three strategic Gulf allies: Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Qatar is home to a US military base with 11,000 American troops.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt abruptly cut diplomatic ties with Doha three weeks ago, exacerbating longstanding tensions with the small, rich gas-exporter. The groups alleges it is a state sponsor of terrorism — a charge Qatar forcefully denies.
Mr Tillerson cancelled a planned visit to Mexico last week in order to devote more time to trying to resolve the conflict from Washington. However, both he and other state department officials have demonstrated increasing frustration at the pace of resolution.
“We believe our allies and partners are stronger when they are working together towards one goal, which we all agree is stopping terrorism and countering extremism. Each country involved has something to contribute to that effort, ” Mr Tillerson said on Sunday. “A lowering of rhetoric would also ease the tension.”
In addition to calling for the shutdown of Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia and its partners also called on Qatar to curb relations with Iran, to close a Turkish military base and to halt military co-operation with Ankara.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan also spoke out against the demands. “Demanding that Turkey pull its soldiers is unfortunately also disrespectful towards Turkey,” Mr Erdogan said on Sunday.
Mr Tillerson said the US would “continue to stay in close contact with all parties” and would support the “mediation efforts of the emir of Kuwait” who has taken a leading role in finding a resolution.