Tillerson puts new light on Gulf crisis

Top US diplomat arrived at KSA on Saturday   

| Updated: October 25, 2017 05:06:34

Tillerson puts new light on Gulf crisis

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson landed in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for the start of his Middle East tour as he looks for a fresh push to end the Gulf crisis.

Upon his landing, the top US diplomat met with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

On Sunday, Tillerson participated in the inaugural meeting of the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee, 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.

The secretary of state was also scheduled to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the ongoing diplomatic dispute with Qatar, now in its fourth month, according to the US state department, reports Al Jazeera.

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.

While in the kingdom, the inaugural Coordination Council meeting between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iraq will also be on Tillerson's agenda.

After Riyadh, the secretary of state is due to travel to Qatar's capital, Doha, on Sunday, where he will meet Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.

Tillerson offered little optimism about a solution to the Gulf crisis ahead of his Middle East tour, blaming the Saudi-led group of countries for the lack of progress.

"I do not have a lot of expectations for it being resolved anytime soon," he said in an interview with a financial news agency on Thursday.

"There seems to be a real unwillingness on the part of some of the parties to want to engage... It's up to the leadership of the quartet when they want to engage with Qatar because Qatar has been very clear - they're ready to engage," added Tillerson.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said the Qatar crisis "is becoming an embarrassing topic" for Saudi Arabia and the UAE "simply because Washington has already moved on".

"It's no longer taking their arguments seriously and the whole bit about Qatar supporting terrorism and instability in the region is of course proving false," Bishara added.

"Clearly, Tillerson has other bigger issues in mind, especially the containment of Iran, and reckons the Qatar crisis is simply a destruction and counterproductive of the overall policy that the US is seeking in the region."

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