The US President has called on Qatar to “do more” to cut off its support for terrorism. Secretary of State Tillerson also said sanctions are impacting the US-led coalition against the so-called “Islamic State.”
“The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” President Trump said at a White House press conference on Friday before calling on the Gulf emirate to “end that funding.”
“For Qatar, we want you back among the unity of responsible nations,” Trump said.
The president did not limit his call for greater action against terrorism to Qatar alone but instead urged “Qatar and other nations in the region to do more to combat terrorism and do it faster.”
“Stop funding, stop teaching hate and stop the killing,” he added.
The president’s words are a strong claim against Qatar, a key US military ally that has consistently denied allegations of its support for terror organizations.
Last month, President Trump traveled to the Middle East where he met with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia. The president has claimed that his conversations there pushed him to call out Qatar.
Trump trails Tillerson
Trump’s press conference came on the heels of a similar statement made by his US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the US State Department.
“We call on the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar,” Secretary Tillerson said in a brief statement to reporters on Friday.
He also added that the blockade was causing “unintended consequences, especially during the holy month of Ramadan” and listed food shortages, the separation of family members, and the withdrawal of children from school as examples.
Qatar receives much of its food across the now-closed land border with Saudi Arabia.
In addition to the humanitarian consequences, Tillerson stated that the blockade was hurting the fight against the so-called “Islamic State” and other violent extremist movements in the region.
“The blockade is hindering US military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS,” Tillerson said, using a common American acronym for the group.
The United States’ biggest air base in the Middle East is at Udeid air base in Qatar, which also hosts the Qatari air force and other coalition troops. Udeid hosts more than 10,000 personnel from US and coalition forces, as well as more than 100 aircraft that are used in allied military operations in Iraq, Syria and other areas in the region.
Qatar ‘must do more’
Tillerson’s statement also addressedthe “terror list” released by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain earlier in the day that included members of the Qatari royal family, as well as Qatar charity organizations.
“We call on Qatar to be responsive to the concerns of its neighbors,” he said.
While acknowledging that Qatar had “made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorists” from within its border, Tillerson noted that the small but wealthy country has supported a wide variety of political groups, from activist to violent ones, and he urged Qatari leaders to increase their efforts.
“The emir of Qatar has made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorists from his country, but he must do more and he must do it more quickly,” the secretary said.
Tillerson said that a resolution was possible through “calm and thoughtful dialogue” and noted the US’ support for the neutral Kuwait to mediate in the crisis.
“Our expectation is that these countries will immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve their grievances they have with each other,” Tillerson said.
Just days earlier, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt, Yemen and Mauritania cut diplomatic ties, suspended transport and closed their borders with Qatar after alleging the emirate supported regional terror groups. The Gulf countries have accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorist activities in Syria and Yemen. Qatar has denied all allegations.
cmb/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)