First Published: 2017-10-20

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon
US Secretary of State heads to Gulf, sides with Qatar on what he calls its willingness to reach breakthrough with quartet.
Middle East Online

'There seems to be a real unwillingness on the part of some of the parties to want to engage'

WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson played down prospects of a breakthrough in the crisis between US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar Thursday as he prepared to travel to the Gulf over the weekend.

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

"There seems to be a real unwillingness on the part of some of the parties to want to engage."

Tillerson's October 20-27 trip will also take him to India and Pakistan.

Tillerson, who departs Friday for the Gulf, made an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the Saudi-Qatar dispute during a trip to the region in July.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut diplomatic relations with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and cozying up to Iran.

The sides have been at an impasse since then, despite efforts by Kuwait to mediate the crisis.

US President Donald Trump, after initially appearing to support the effort to isolate Qatar, has called for mediation and recently predicted a rapid end to the crisis.

But Tillerson indicated there has been little movement.

"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," he said.

"Our role is to try to ensure lines of communication are as open as we can help them be, that messages not be misunderstood," he said.

"We're ready to play any role we can to bring them together but at this point it really is now up to the leadership of those countries."

Besides the Gulf dispute, Iran, the conflict in Yemen and counter-terrorism also are on the agenda in the Gulf, the State Department said.

While in Riyadh, Tillerson will also take part in the first meeting of a Saudi-Iraqi coordination council, a sign of warming relations between the Sunni-ruled kingdom and Baghdad as the Saudis seek to counter Tehran's influence in Iraq.

After Riyadh and Doha, the secretary will go to Islamabad and New Delhi, stops that had been announced previously, and then to Geneva on his way back to Washington.

In Islamabad, Tillerson will stress "Pakistan's critical role in the success of our South Asia strategy," the State Department said.

Trump has stepped up pressure on the Pakistani authorities and military, which have been accused of being too soft on the Taliban.

In New Delhi, he will be looking for ways to strengthen the US "strategic partnership" with India, seen as a counter to China's rise as a world power.

The secretary of state will then take up global humanitarian crises during a visit in Geneva with heads of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration and the International Committee of the Red Cross.


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