Rex Tillerson: Qatari position in Gulf row ‘reasonable’

US secretary of state, while visiting Doha, says Qatar’s views in Gulf crisis have been clear and ‘very reasonable’.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Doha that the Qatari government had “reasonable” views in the month-old diplomatic crisis with Arab neighbors.

“I think Qatar has been quite clear in its positions, and I think those have been very reasonable,” Tillerson said after his arrival in Doha on Tuesday.

The quartet accuse Qatar of funding “terrorism”, an accusation Qatar rejects as “baseless”.

In a joint news conference, Tillerson and the Qatari foreign minister announced that the US and Qatar agreement on combatting “terrorism” and its financing during the visit.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said the MoU has nothing to do with the current dispute.

Tillerson also held talks with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on the second leg of his four-day trip to the Gulf to help seek a resolution to the crisis.

The visit to Doha follows a meeting with the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah and other senior Kuwaiti officials on Monday.

“We are trying to resolve an issue that concerns not just us but the whole world,” Sheikh Sabah told Tillerson.

On Wednesday, Tillerson will meet the foreign ministers of the countries leading the boycott against Qatar – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – in Jeddah.

US officials said Tillerson does not expect an immediate breakthrough, which they warned could be months away.

Rather, they said, he wants to explore possibilities for sparking negotiations.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5 and imposed a land, air and sea blockade on the country.

On June 22, they issued a 13-point list of demands, including the shutdown of Al Jazeera, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country, as a prerequisite to lift the sanctions.

Doha rejected the demands and the countries now consider the list “null and void”.

Kuwait is still trying to mediate the dispute.

The US has been supporting Kuwait’s mediation efforts, but Tillerson’s trip marks a new level of US involvement.

Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Kuwait City, said Tillerson was basically visiting each side to “take the temperature in this dispute”.

“After some initial missteps from the White House, in which the president seemed to take sides with the Saudis and their allegations, the US’ position now is to try to shore up the Kuwait efforts to mediate the crisis and to try to bring some pressure from Washington, if it’s appropriate,” she said.

Senior Tillerson adviser R.C. Hammond said the package of demands, as issued by Qatar’s neighbours, was not viable, but said there were individual items on the list “that could work”.

Hammond would not elaborate on which demands Qatar could meet, but said concessions from the others would be required.

“This is a two-way street,” he said of a dispute among parties who each have been accused of funding “extremists” in some way. “There are no clean hands.”

Qatar and U.S. sign agreement to combat terrorism

Doha has signed deal during visit by US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, as it faces Saudi claims it supports terrorism.

The United States and Qatar signed an agreement on combating terrorism and its financing during a visit to Doha by the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

“Qatar and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding between the two countries outlining future efforts Qatar can take to fortify its fight against terrorism and actively address terrorism funding issues,” said Tillerson’s senior adviser, RC Hammond.

“This is a hopeful step forward,” Hammond added.

A Saudi Arabian-led quartet of four Arab powers has laid economic siege to Qatar since last month, saying the tiny Gulf state supports “terrorists” and spreads propaganda through the state-owned Al Jazeera media network.

Qatar denies the accusations.

The agreement was discussed at a news conference in Doha, attended by Tillerson and Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

“Today, Qatar is the first country to sign a memorandum of agreement with the US, and we call on the countries imposing the siege against Qatar to join us as signatories to this MOU,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

He added that the signing was “not related to the recent crisis and the blockade imposed against Qatar”.

Tillerson praised Qatar for committing to the effort “to track down and disable terror financing”.

“The US has one goal: To drive terrorism off the face of the Earth,” he said.

“Together the United States and Qatar will do more to track down funding sources, will do more to collaborate and share information, and will do more to keep the region and our homeland safe.”

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates accuse Doha of funding what they call terrorism – something Qatar denies.