Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and others cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar earlier this month
The Trump administration's messaging on the crisis has been inconsistent
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that the United States is waiting to see whether a “list of demands” presented to Qatar by a coalition of its Gulf neighbors and their partners are “reasonable and actionable,” one day after the State Department’s top spokeswoman questioned the continued diplomatic freeze.
“In regards to the continuing dispute within the (Gulf Cooperation Council), we understand a list of demands has been prepared and coordinated by the Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians, and Bahrainis,” Tillerson said in a statement. “We hope the list of demands will soon be presented to Qatar and will be reasonable and actionable.”
“We support the Kuwaiti mediation effort and look forward to this matter moving toward a resolution,” he added.
A day earlier, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States was “mystified” by the failure of Saudi Arabia and its allies to justify the ongoing isolation of Qatar, a key US partner in the fight against ISIS.
“Now that it’s been over two weeks since the embargo started, we are mystified that the Gulf States have not released to the public, nor to the Qataris, the details about the claims that they are making toward Qatar,” Nauert told reporters at a press briefing. “The more time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the (United Arab Emirates).”
“At this point we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the GCC countries?” she said.
The comments mark an escalation in US efforts to intercede in the conflict, which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson launched in earnest last week, at President Donald Trump’s request.
It’s also the administration’s strongest public condemnation of the embargo, which began earlier this month when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and others cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar for allegedly supporting extremism.
To date, the administration’s messaging on the crisis has been inconsistent.
Initially, Trump seemed to welcome the diplomatic freeze, going so far as to suggest he was partially responsible for the decision.
“We had a decision to make,” Trump told reporters in the White House Rose Garden two weeks ago. “Do we take the easy road or do we finally take a hard but necessary action? We have to stop the funding of terrorism.”
The remarks created confusion within Washington’s foreign policy circles. Only hours earlier, Tillerson went in front of cameras at the State Department to say the so-called blockade was “hindering US military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS.”
Tillerson did not elaborate on that claim, but called on parties in the region to come together and find a diplomatic solution to the quarrel.
The US maintains a large military base in Qatar, which is home to some 11,000 personnel.
In congressional testimony last week, Tillerson insisted there was “no daylight” between himself and Trump on the issue of Qatar.